Rachel Bloem is setting the dinner music vibes in venues all around town! Her easy-listening jazz and folk music is pleasing to the ears. Have a dinner date? Or just want to have a peaceful night out? If so, Rachel will be performing at Veritas Wine and Bistro on Saturday December 16 from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. We had the chance to sit down with Rachel and talk about what inspires her pursuit of music.
MW: Why music? What is it that makes music so meaningful to you?
RB: I can’t imagine a life without music, without singing. Sometimes talking is hard but I could sing about everything (to the annoyance of my brothers). Music gives us another avenue for communication and expression and helps us relate to others on another level. I’m a deeply social creature and music gives me one more way to connect with those around me. I’ve been through times in my life where I was very depressed. I couldn’t imagine holding a job and didn’t feel like I even had the capacity to do normal life things. All I wanted to do was sing. Being able to sing pulled me out of my darkness.
MW: Do you remember when you first discovered your love for music? What was that moment like?
RB: I love singing. I’ve been singing for as long as I can remember. One of my first memories with music is standing over the dish sink, just singing away to pass the time. Long before I was a music therapist I was using music therapeutically to let my mind wander into a peaceful place.
MW: You studied at Berklee College of Music in Boston, was it intimidating being surrounded by people who were solely focused on their craft? What was your experience at Berklee like?
RB: Attending Berklee was one of the most unique, inspiring and challenging things I’ve ever been a part of. I was definitely intimidated basically the whole 3 years I was a student there. Being surrounded by some of the most talented and hard-working musicians in the world brought up the constant challenge to not compare myself. I think most of my peers struggled with that, no matter how gifted they were. This dynamic caused some to work harder, and some to give up.
I went into Berklee with a basic knowledge about music where my only musical foundation was a few years of piano lessons as a kid and “Doe a deer” from the Sound of Music. I basically learned all I know about music in college. This was one of my hesitations when deciding to be a music major or not – not knowing if I could catch up. But I had an amazing support team at the music department at Blinn College in Brenham. They helped me identify my dreams of helping people with music and to not let my underexposure to the formal side of music intimidate me from pursuing music as a career. I decided that with hard work, I could do it. I definitely had some catching up to do but I wanted it badly enough and I ended up graduating with honors. This was not based on talent. It was pure hard work. Although Berklee is known for its top-notch talented alumni, it’s definitely an academically rigorous school, especially the music therapy program.
I think honestly most of the things I’ve learned from my Berklee experience didn’t sink in until after graduation. In the hustle of learning all we can in the few years we are there, we are just trying to keep our head above the water and balance the 8-10 classes we take per semester. Then suddenly we were done and back out into the real world. I’m so thankful for every bit of my education because I have used it all in my work as a music therapist, music instructor, singer/performer as well as every time I collaborate with another musician.
MW: Your degree had an emphasis in Music Therapy. I love those two words together. Music is such therapy. Why did you decide to focus on that?
RB: I’ve never really been career-minded. I’ve just always wanted to spend my time with people, ministering to them relationally in any way I could. Music seemed like the best tool for me to be able to do this. When I learned about the atrocities of human trafficking I got angry and wanted to do something about it. I wanted to use music to help people heal from trauma. Shortly after realizing this calling on my life I learned about the profession of music therapy and it seemed to fit perfectly with how I wanted to live my life.
MW: Artists all have places they draw inspiration from, what is that for you?
RB: I’m inspired by my relationship with Jesus Christ, by my family (3 brothers, 3 sisters, and two loving parents), supportive friends, my travels and experiences around the world, the beauty of nature and stillness, and just the journey that we all go on through life. One of the most influential people in my life is my friend and mentor, Karen VonGonten. She is an amazing vocalist/musician/songwriter and just has a beautifully creative soul. She lead worship at my childhood church with her angelic vocals and pure heart, and then down the road ended up being my first guitar teacher and spiritual mentor. She recently started performing at Downtown Bryan’s First Friday event and is producing an EP! Other musical influences include Ingrid Michaelson, Eisley, Regina Spektor, Judy Garland, The Beatles, Ella Fitzgerald and Johnny Cash.
MW: You have mentioned spirituality several times. God is a major theme in your writing, where do God and music intersect?
RB: Where do God and music not intersect? I believe that God wants a relationship with us and wants to be a part of every aspect of our lives. For me, this includes music. In my life, music has always had a spiritual element. The first songs I ever learned were songs about praising Jesus. I originally was inspired to learn guitar so that I could lead worship for my church. I haven’t written a lot of songs but the few I have written are inspired by my journey with God. My song, “Wandering Stranger” is about feeling out of place on this earth because our true home is with God, and He is the only one who gives us hope and purpose.
To get just a little deeper and philosophical, I believe that God created music at the beginning of time for the purpose of glorifying Himself. Music at its core is spiritual. It’s a powerful force that can be used for good or evil.
MW: For someone that has a never heard you perform, how would you describe your musical styling?
RB: Easy-listening with elements of jazz, folk, and indy-pop. I play at different venues around town with the extremely talented guitar-player, Kevin Duff. Our setlist consists of well-known classic and modern covers.
MW: What is it about being on the stage that keeps you motivated?
RB: I’ve said this before but, I just love to sing! There’s something magical about music that creates a connection to people that you’ve never met. Sharing this joy and energy with the world keeps me motivated.
MW: What are your future career plans as a vocalist?
RB: I wrote a song this year, and songwriting is a new thing for me. So, I think I would like to explore that more. I haven’t really looked into it much since I wrote that one song. I would like to have more songs written in a couple of years. I would love to keep performing at any singing opportunities that I get. One of my goals is to record in the studio, either songs that I wrote or a cover CD. Also, as far as music therapy, I would love to see that career develop here. There are not a lot of music therapy jobs, but it’s growing, and I would like to find more opportunities to do that.
MW: What can people expect from you in the future?
RB: I plan to continue performing in the B/CS area and hope to be recording soon!
Look out for my appearance on Chris Dyer’s interview of Jacob Appelt on KAMU in the new year!
Future performances include:
December 9: The Stella Hotel
Dec 16: Veritas Wine and Bistro
Dec 21 & 29: Luigis Patio Ristorante
Dec 28: Cavalry Court
Keep up with me on my Facebook page: