Dr. Shirley Meyer Blankenship initially began performing with the Champaign-Urbana Symphony Orchestra as a violinist when she was a student and Bernard Goodman was the conductor. Throughout the years she has played viola and keybaords as well as the harp. Currently, Shirley is the principal harpist.
Dr. Blankenship was the first woman to receive a Doctorate of Musical Arts Degree in composition from the University of Illinois. Among her compositions are: Chansons Innocentes, Visions and Revisions, Terse Trio, The Trees Stand, It's Always Ourselves We find, Christmas Images, Metaphysical Waltz, Sagileo, Be Careful, The Squirrel, Duo for Violin and Cello, and Fantasy Stuck.
In addition to her participation in the symphony and the creation of new works, Shirley has been active in local theaters as an accompanist, music director, violinist, harpist and actress. These theaters include The Station Theater, The Champaign-Urbana Theater Company, The Sunshine Dinner Playhouse, Parkland College, Artco in Tuscola and The Little Theater On The Square in Sullivan. At The Station Theatre, she was music director and accompanist for two Menotti operas: The Medium and The Telephone. At the University of Illinois, Shirley performed The Fantasticks (harp) and She Loves Me (violin) with Thomas Schleis, music director and accompanist. In the summer of 2010, she was the accompanist for the musical Honk performed in Tuscola.
For the past 10 years, she has been a collaborator with composer Robert Martin. In 2008, Shirley recorded his composition, The Owl and The Pussycat, for harp and flute, with Amanda Pond, flutist. This recording is now included in an album entitled Metamorphosis. In 2010, she completed the recording of 100 piano pieces comprising Martin's Mt Fuji project.
Dr. Blankenship is a member of The American Harp Society, Composer's Forum, and The Society of Composers, Inc. On her page on the forum website is posted a recent article concerning compositional issues she has encountered in the works of Jolivet, Brun, Haken, Martin, Berg, Rouse, Baxter and Rands. She is currently a professional international editor/consultant for composers writing new music for the harp.
Her ongoing autobiography, Polarities, documents her career in the arts as a musician, actress and teacher as well as her personal life struggles.