Erika Blanco, a Southerner from the coast of South Carolina by birthright and Midwesterner by recent transplant, holds a bachelor’s degree in violin performance from Vanderbilt University’s Blair School of Music and a master’s degree in violin performance and Suzuki pedagogy from the University of Minnesota. She studied under the late Stephen Panchaud, assistant concertmaster of the Chattanooga Symphony and Opera, before transferring to Blair School of Music under Blair String Quartet first violinist Christian Teal. Most recently, she studied at the University of Minnesota with Suzuki pioneer Mark Bjork. Erika has performed in masterclasses with violinists Alexander Kerr, Professor of Violin at Indiana University and Concertmaster of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra; Soh-Hyun Park Altino, Professor of Violin at the University of Memphis; and Leanne League, Professor of Violin at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.
Loving collaboration, Erika is a founding member was a violinist in Lux String Quartet (2013 - 2020) and is a long-time participant in the Oskaloosa Music Festival, directed by Benjamin Davis. At the 2013 festival, she soloed Vivaldi’s Summer concerto with the chamber orchestra. She’s played with the Charleston Symphony Orchestra, the Chattanooga Symphony and Opera, and the Mankato Symphony, and is currently a first violinist in the Quad City Symphony Orchestra under Mark Russell Smith. She also serves on the QCSO's committee for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion.
Concurrently with her chamber and orchestral playing, Erika performed with Minneapolis-based salsa band Charanga Tropical (2014 - 2020), the first North American group ever to be invited to Cuba’s 2015 International Danzón Festival in Havana. Charanga Tropical participated in the festival and recorded a live album in EGREM Studios, site of the 1999 film Buena Vista Social Club.
A Suzuki student herself, Erika teaches students in her home studio and with Augsburg University Suzuki Talent Education. She has completed, in addition to her long-term training with Mark Bjork, various short-term Suzuki training units with Carol Smith, Ronda Cole, Brian Lewis, Kimberly Meier-Sims, Mary Cay Neal, Kathy Wood, Nancy Jackson, Doris Preucil, and Nancy Lokken. She staunchly believes that every child can achieve a high level of ability given a nurturing environment and sound teaching. In July 2016 she joined the string faculty at Lutheran Summer Music Program, hosted in Valparaiso, Indiana.
Though trained classically, Erika enjoys jammin’, stompin’, and shakin’ in any setting: homegrown folk, fiddlin’, rockin’-and-a-rollin’, salsa, and the new music scene. Relishing the opportunity to meet different people, she feels privileged to have her passion and her career blended together. Professionally, her ambition is to nurture an appreciation for beauty, collaboration, and the learning process, and personally, to be spurred on by great musicians and colleagues and to participate in the transcendental efficacy of music.