Ten years ago, Alexandria native Elizabeth Eckert was an honor student at The Levine School of Music in Washington, D.C. “My first love was classical music,” says Eckert, “I never wanted to do anything else.” Her parents, both professional musicians bought a grand piano the year she was born. They couldn’t keep her off the bench, so at age two and a half they enrolled her in the Suzuki piano program. With her mother’s guidance, she began practicing daily; by elementary school, she was composing piano pieces and placed at the state level in the “reflections” arts competition. By her teenage years, with the “tough love” of her teacher, Anna Balakerskaia, formerly a professor at the Moscow and Leningrad Conservatories, Elizabeth won virtually every competition at the Levine School. “More importantly” she adds, “These two women made me fall in love with piano and music even more.”
As a scholarship student at the prestigious Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, Eckert was on the fast track to a classical career. She won many honors including the IU Concerto Competition and most impressively, The ALEX award for the Performing Arts from the National Alliance for Excellence. Her performances came to include The Kennedy Center, The Smithsonian and the famed Carnegie Hall.
Elizabeth was practicing piano up to 7 hours a day as well as taking jazz improvisation courses with the legendary David Baker. “I listened to Kind of Blue for hours on end,” says Elizabeth “in addition to Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, and Nina Simone.” She also took voice lessons, singing in both the classical choirs and the African American Choral Ensemble. It was all coming together for the gifted musician.
A Tragic Twist
Then a wrist injury altered Eckert’s course. She had to have extensive surgery on her left arm, and her hopes of a classical piano career were gone. “When I first hurt my wrist and couldn’t play, I was devastated and depressed.”, she remembers. “Having no emotional outlet as I’d been accustomed to, I began writing in a journal and before I knew it, the words were rhyming.... lyrics were coming out.” She sat down at the piano and plunked out some chords with her right hand alone - just enough to write melodies to go with the lyrics she’d written. “Once I started writing songs I couldn’t stop.” After graduating cum laude she moved to Nashville to pursue songwriting.
The Artist Emerges
She began playing writers nights and was soon booking co-writing sessions with prestigious songwriters like Marcus Hummon and Don Rollins (both Grammy Award Winners). After writing for the Nashville market for a few years Elizabeth began getting higher profile gigs including The Bluebird Cafe and the Tin Pan South Festival. “People were telling me that they loved my voice and style and that I should sing my own songs!” She did and it soon paid off.
In 2009 Elizabeth signed with SlugFest Records Nashville (ADA/Warner Music Group) then hit the road from Austin to New York City on her ‘2nd Hand Summer Tour’. The last few months she’s been busy writing and recording her upcoming EP. The first single “Bloomington (I Got Educated)” will be released early spring 2010. Producer Greg Bieck describes Eckert’s sound as a captivating blend of virtuosity and pop.
Words And Music
“I’m a romantic and a sucker for songs about love - happy and sad. Anything emotional gets me going. Some of my favorite artist / writers over the years have been Patty Griffin, Stevie Wonder, Sarah McLachlan, Ray LaMontagne, Amos Lee, Regina Spektor, Norah Jones, Alicia Keys, Ben Folds, Coldplay, Damien Rice and Death Cab for Cutie.”
As a piano instructor at Vanderbilt University’s Blair School of Music, Elizabeth passes on the lessons she was taught- that music is a part of life, that music makes the world a better place. “I have always believed that the love of music makes people better people.”
7.2.2011 - Washington Nationals Baseball, National Anthem (Washington, DC)
3.1.2010 - 3.10.2010, Episcopal High School (Alexandria, VA)
1.16.2010 - 1.17.2010, Levine School of Music Suzuki Workshop (Washington, DC)
1.9.2010, 8pm - Busboys & Poets (Shirlington, VA)
1.7.2010, 8am - St. Stephen's & St. Agnes School (Alexandria, VA)
12.30.10, 7pm - Indiana University Women's Basketball, Anthem & Half-time Show (Bloomington, IN)
12.5.2010, 12pm - Indiana University Women's Basketball, Anthem (Bloomington, IN)
11.20.2010, time tba - IU vs. Penn State Football at FedEx Field (Washington, D.C.)
11.13.2010, 6pm - Indiana University Women's Colloquium (Bloomington, IN)
9.30.2010, 10am - St. Andrew's School (Jackson, MS)
8.20.2010, 6:30pm - The Bluebird Cafe (Nashville, TN)
8.14.2010, 7pm - The Downwind (Atlanta, GA)
7.15.2010, 9pm - DIVA NIGHT @ The Rutledge (Nashville, TN)
6.19.2010, 5pm - Taste of Bloomington Festival (Bloomington, IN)
6.18.2010, 9pm - The Bluebird Bar (Bloomington, IN)
6.2.2010, 6pm - IUAA Coaches' Tour Dinner (Clarksville, IN)
5.22.2010, 1pm - Indiana University vs. Illinois Baseball Game (Bloomington, IN)
Carnegie Hall Interview: Songwriter Series
Songwriter Elizabeth Eckert: "Every Song You Write Makes You Better"Absolutely! I wrote lots of love songs when I started out. Mostly stuff I couldn’t say in real life! It’s an amazing outlet for whatever is going on in your heart and head—especially if you are a little shy like I am.
American Songwriter Magazine: Writer of the Week, Elizabeth Eckert
As a scholarship student at
the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, Elizabeth Eckert was
poised for a career in classical music. Then a wrist injury altered the
pianist’s course. Shortly thereafter Eckert began writing songs, and
before long she’d landed gigs at The Bluebird Cafe and the Tin Pan South
Festival. The last few months she’s been busy writing and recording her
upcoming EP. The first single “Bloomington (I Got Educated)” will be
released in early spring 2010. Eckert also works as a piano instructor
at Vanderbilt University’s Blair School of Music. American
Songwriter chatted with the songwriter about her musical journey
Growing up in a musical family was pretty great for me, but I don’t have anything to compare it to! Honestly, I don’t remember not playing the piano – music was just a natural part of life for me and my sister. In that sort of environment, music is just something you do. You don’t realize that everyone else doesn’t do it too. So even though neither of my parents taught me, their love for music went deep. There’s a passion from listening to music and learning to play at an early age that is hard to replicate.
What has the journey from pianist to singer-songwriter been like for you?
I’d love to paint a pretty picture, but the truth is it’s been extremely hard. I always imagined myself as a concert pianist and had the drive to achieve that goal. When a left wrist injury derailed me from that path a few years ago, I had to take a long, hard look at myself. I didn’t know how to define myself as anything but a musician but I couldn’t play for months. In the midst of that depression, I started writing in a journal … and I noticed the lines were rhyming. When I realized I was writing lyrics, I sat down at the piano and found chords to go with them. In retrospect, it’s a blessing I had to walk that road. It taught me I was a songwriter.
How did the idea for the music video contest for “Bloomington” come about? How has the response been so far?
When I decided to call the EP Bloomington and release the title track as the first single, my hope was to get Indiana University students and supporters to take ownership. I wanted people to relate to the song and see it as a chance to promote the city and school they love. The music video contest has really gotten fans involved and made them feel like a part of something bigger. It will be cool for people to see the video and get to say “hey, I shot that part!”
Do you see this DIY style of marketing continuing with future projects?
Absolutely. Being an artist right now requires not only a songwriter’s brain and performer’s experience but also a marketer’s mind and go-getter’s attitude. Oh, and another job to fund all those creative projects I think of … no wonder I’m so exhausted!
You signed with Slugfest Records in early 2009 and then embarked on the “2nd Hand Summer Tour” What was the chain of events that led you to that point? What has your experience been so far working with an indie label?
After five years in Bloomington (including my “victory lap”), I moved to Nashville to pursue songwriting. I played my songs out every chance I got. There was good and bad feedback, but overall I heard that people liked my voice and piano playing in addition to the songs. So after some soul-searching and a few years of good ol’ Nashville writing, I decided to give the artist thing a real shot. Working with an indie label has taught me what it means to have a “team” of people supporting you. What they don’t have in resources they make up for in passion. When it comes down to it, none of us really does it alone.
Indiana Daily Student: IU alumna goes from piano to microphone after wrist injury ends classical career
By Jake Wright | IDS | Jan. 26, 2010 — Elizabeth Eckert had her fingers glued to the keys of a piano from age two. On track to become a classical pianist, she was on her way to realizing her dream until her junior year of college, when the keys were ripped from beneath her hands. read more
Bloomington Herald-Times: Calendar Hotspot: 'Bloomington' song
By Kristina Wood | January 28, 2010 — TONIGHT: A wrist injury turned a performance career on its head for former IU Concerto Competition winner Elizabeth Eckert. Her path as a pianist began at age 2 and led all the way to Carnegie Hall. After extensive surgery, she started pouring out words and songs, as an emotional outlet. Now after much hard work and recovery, she's emerging as a recording artist. Eckert sings "Bloomington (I Got Educated)," her new classical/pop EP from SlugFest Records Nashville (ADA/Warner Music Group), at 7 p.m. at Rachael's Cafe. Admission is free.
- Elizabeth featured on Carnegie Hall's Musical Exchange: Songwriter Series
- Check out Elizabeth's new song "Fractured" on BalconyTV.com/Nashville!
- New Dates announced - Anthems for Major League Baseball this summer - Washington Nationals July 2, Chicago White Sox August 13
- We're in the running for the Little 500 Battle of the Bands in Bloomington. The winner gets to open at this year's HUGE Little 500 Concert for an artist TBA (last year's was Snoop Dog, so it will be somebody big!) Please vote and spread the word!
- SCHOOL TOUR booking happening now! The tour kicks off on September 30 with St. Andrews in Jackson, MS!
- SESAC showcase a huge hit! Thanks to Shannan Neese, Jocelyn Harms, and the whole SESAC crew for making it such a memorable evening.
- IU Crowne Plaza announced as official sponsor of the Bloomington CD Release! Make your reservations now for March 24 at (812) 334-3252 or www.bookbloomington.com
- Elizabeth will be featured on "Live from Studio CD" on Nashville's 90.3 WPLN Sunday (2/28) at 3:00 central and Tuesday (3/2) at 8:07pm central. Not in Nashville? Tune in online here
- Elizabeth Featured in Indiana Daily Student, Bloomington Herald-Times.
- Bloomington EP is ready! Buy yours on CDbaby or iTunes.
- Follow the lead of IU Alumni Chapters in Chicago and Washington, DC by booking Elizabeth for an Indiana Alumni gathering in your area!