By Sam Stack and Bennett Baker, Editors-in-Chief
The Class of 2017 will be graduating shortly, with each senior preparing to embark on their own adventure. No two students follow the exact same path after high school, and sometimes students end up in places they’d least expect. Here are two Acalanes alumnae who blazed their own trails.
Late night television host James Corden has gained incredible popularity through his segment known as Carpool Karaoke. Corden invites celebrity guests to join him in a car ride, and they proceed to sing along to famous songs. The segment has included stars such as Michelle Obama, Adele, and Steph Curry. Corden, however, was not the first to do this; Acalanes alumna Nicki Bluhm did it before Corden.
Bluhm and her band, known as Nicki Bluhm and The Gramblers, used to cover popular songs in their van traveling from gig to gig. These “van sessions” gained attention on YouTube, with the most popular cover amassing over 3 million views.
However, before Bluhm’s musical career took off, she walked the halls of Acalanes. Bluhm, who graduated in 1997, didn’t participate in any musical programs while at Acalanes. Outside of school, Bluhm enjoyed horseback riding.
After graduating from the University of San Diego, Bluhm got a teaching credential. After realizing teaching was not what she wanted to do, Bluhm worked on a private ranch taking care of eight horses.
Bluhm’s music career really began after she sang on an open mic at an afterparty of a concert in San Diego where she was noticed by her future husband Tim Bluhm, the lead singer for a band called the Mother Hips. Tim convinced her to go up to San Francisco and make a record and things took off from there.
“I had no plans to be in the music industry, but I loved music. My life was moving towards music, but I didn’t really realize I was going to become a musician and tour and make records,” Bluhm said.
Bluhm has been busy over the past ten years, releasing two records under her name and two records with Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers. Bluhm and Tim also released a duet record.
Bluhm has also toured internationally throughout Europe, which has been one of her favorite parts of her career.
“Spain was a great place to play music. The people there love to listen to music,” Bluhm said.
Bluhm has also played at the Fillmore in San Francisco several times and it’s another one of her favorite places to play. Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers played on the “Conan O’Brien Show” as well.
After touring with the Gramblers, Bluhm started singing with the Infamous Stringdusters. While singing with them, she connected with solo artist Ryan Adams who invited Bluhm and the Infamous Stringdusters to join him in multiple performances.
“We did a bunch of shows together. We performed at places like the Newport Folk Festival, the Capitol Theater in New York, and we were on the “Late Show with Stephen Colbert.” This summer we’re playing at Red Rocks which will be really cool,” Bluhm said.
Bluhm also had some advice to give Acalanes students.
“Do what you love and be passionate about it. You have to be your best believer; no one else is going to do it for you. You have to have it in your gut,” Bluhm said.
At the age of 14, Acalanes alumna Doris Willette was travelling the globe dueling opponents concealed behind mesh masks. Between ages 16 and 20, Willette fenced her way onto national teams. In 2012, Willette achieved a longheld dream: competing for Team USA in the Olympic Games.
Willette began fencing at age nine and dedicated herself to the sport from her elementary school years through college. She first got into fencing at George Platt’s Swordplay Fencing Academy in Concord, California.
“George Platt was my coach in the early years and really built an amazing foundation for me,” Willette said.
Willette fenced with multiple clubs over the course of her career, the last of which being the Massialas Foundation with coach Greg Massialas. It was with Massialas Foundation that Willette achieved her dream of competing in the Olympic Games.
The Olympics had long been a dream for Willette, as is true for most young athletes. Willette, however, is one of the few who was able to achieve that goal, thanks to countless hours of training.
“I had been training for [the Olympics] pretty much since I was 11,” Willette said.
In her high school years, Willette was a member of the U.S. Junior World Team in 2005 and 2006. Additionally, she was part of the U.S. Senior Team at the 2006 World Championships. Training and competition during her high school years forced Willette to miss a lot of school, but she insists that her “amazing” teachers allowed her the perfect amount of flexibility.
“To be able to travel and miss a lot of school and have my teachers be flexible on making up tests and homework and all of those things really allowed me to achieve a lot of my dreams,” Willette said.
Willette attended college at Pennsylvania State University. After her first year of college, Willette took a year off to train for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games,which she attended as an alternate athlete.
During her college years, Willette won multiple National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Championships for Women’s Foil. Following her graduation, Willette dedicated yet another year to Olympic training.
At the 2012 London Olympic Games, Willette’s dream came true when she competed in the team Women’s Foil event. Team USA took sixth place in the event. Willette calls the Olympics an “unforgettable experience.”
“It’s one of those situations where you’re among so many amazing athletes and there’s a sort of kinship you build with everyone there knowing you’ve all worked so hard to achieve this dream and be there and compete at such a high level,” Willette said. “So it was really fun to be there and meet a lot of people from different sports and different countries.”
Nowadays, Willette coaches up-and-coming fencers from time to time, and has a job in digital marketing.
“I’m trying to enjoy life and not take too much for granted,” Willette said.