An artist you'll surely love: Ashanti Love
Art can be anywhere and everywhere.
From the well-known spaces, faces, and places, to those flying below the radar. With a range that includes (but is not limited to) music, acting, the theater arts, and other forms, the “capture” of the creative genius can be beyond words and even its very expression. The impact of performance is one thing; even better is seeing those who are serious and sincere about their craft, crossing different realms, reaching multiple audiences, and making an impression that is truly unforgettable.
Earlier this week, I have the pleasure of interviewing one such artist. The Seattle, WA based Ashanti Love is more than just an artist; delving into areas including singing, songwriting, acting, along with the incorporation of her experience from the international to her nurturing at one of the Triad’s (the Winston-Salem, Greensboro, and High Point, NC area) HBCU’s, Bennett College, she is a steadily growing presence given her current and future projects.
Let’s take note of why she’s truly one to show some love to.
Introduction to the arts.
Similar to a number of people, Ashanti’s introduction to the arts is from her family. More specifically, through the lens of music.
“Music has always felt good to me; it is one of the things that brings family (and people) together”, she reflects.
From the vibes of Luther Vandross to the old-school stylings of artists such as (but not limited to) Al Green, The Isley Brothers, the bonding experiences of creating dance routines at the family fish-fries, to tapping into her imagination and creative tendencies is part of what makes music a prevailing presence. While this provides a bridge to performances as talent shows and related events, the ability for music to bring people together and the positives drawn from it is the main draw for her.
As an extension of “the love” for music, she eventually has her “A-Ha” moment which galvanizes her love for music (and the arts in general) and taking it beyond the level of just a passion, but something to seriously pursue.
“Through the ACT-SO Program (done by the NAACP), it provides a competition platform for high school students across multiple fields, including business, the arts, and other areas. I was able to compete as a high school student (in the field of Contemporary Music miles away from home in Baltimore, MD)”.
What she sees there truly indicates there are “levels” to this, as she is captivated by the fellow students’ constructively competitive fire. Their level of preparation, drive, desire, and underlying mindset of being success pushes her to a strata where she hadn’t gone before; while her performance of “Miss Cele’s Blues” (from The Color Purple) didn’t garner her a win, it provides some things that are just as meaningful: recognition and acclaim from the audience, understanding of the mindset needed in the field (of music and the arts), and a new-found energy and spirit.
Fresh off her experience with ACT-SO, Ashanti hones her craft at an environment that is known for its nurturing, encouraging, and empowering nature: her journey takes her from the Pacific Northwest to the Piedmont/Triad area of North Carolina, specifically the city of Greensboro, to the all-female campus located close to E Market Street known as Bennett College. And it is there where she becomes an even stronger, more polished artist.
“One of the key organizations to get involved with is the (Bennett College) Choir. From there, I’m able to truly enhance my skills not only in music and the arts, but well beyond them”, she reflects with a sense of calm and of a convincing nature and spirit, including the presence of Valerie Johnson (who is the Choir Director at the time/Professor of Music). "She helped give me my start (in the choir)", she adds.
Then again, when you travel with Dr. Johnetta B. Cole for multiple recruiting and related trips on behalf of the college, let alone perform for and meet with influential figures including former Atlanta Mayor and Ambassador Andrew Young, Judge Hatchett, Operation PUSH’s Jesse Jackson, that lends for growth opportunities as an artist and beyond. Additional endeavors ranging from travel and performance with the GA Mass Choir, to recognition from legendary influencers including Phylicia Rashad to Coretta Scott King, an artist can clearly broaden her scope, including landing a role in the musical Crowns.
And then there’s the overall Bennett College experience, which is one of only two HBCU's which exclusively educate women.
“It truly is a nurturing environment. Even though my background is different from my fellow Bennett Sisters, it doesn’t matter. It truly feels like home and like family. When you can have professors (even the university chaplain) take time to personally see how you are doing, the college experience takes on an entirely different meaning. Where some schools tell you to “look to your left, then look to your right as that person won’t be here next semester”, it’s a totally different mindset (at Bennett). It’s more of the mindset of “they’ll be here for and with you”; that’s something that is one of the biggest takeaways”, she endorses.
In fact, one of her music professors is a leading influence in her initial post-Bennett College endeavors in further embracing the arts.
“Dr. Stephanie Lawrence-White is someone who inspired and still inspires me”, she stresses.
Her sharing and exchanging of her experiences within music nationally and abroad (including her time in Florence, Italy) intrigues her. The potential enrichment from culture, performance, and beyond provides her with her landing spot…as a flight attendant.
What does that have to do with music?
Ashanti advises, “It’s the overall experience. Being able to travel, taking in different cultures and audiences (performance, the arts, and other areas), and just being able to better connect with different people are some things you just can’t replace”. Her years of getting “bit” by the travel bug provides her with growth beyond the classroom experience; however, there’s something that continues to call her.
And that is the overall pursuit of the performing arts.
Working through the processes ranging from auditions to playing the waiting game of the proverbial call-back provides some tenuous moments, but when it results in performances with productions via the Seattle Opera and Village Theater (among other venues), it provides reference points and engagement opportunities with multiple audiences and others within the areas of theater and opera. In light of these achievements, she’s more than the prototypical “working artist”; she wants more.
This leads her to delving deeper into music. With a range of experience performing with multiple cover bands and other performances, through which she and the band she performs with at the time garners attention from r and b vet (singer and songwriter Angela Winbush. She (Winbush) happens to catch their performance with a local cover band; lo and behold, she brings her on-board as an opening act artist for one of her concerts.
“I did my homework on her”, she notes with an energy and giddiness that is truly captivating. “She is an artist I looked up to; she’s a fellow classically trained artist (like me) and has an HBCU background (Howard University) as well. And when I learned of the backstory behind the song “Your Smile” (it is written as an ode/celebration for her grandmother), it takes me back to my reason for my love of music (and how it can galvanize and bring families together)”.
The nurturing, travels, opportunities, and performances as just a part of the larger process in leading to what’s next, including opening for artists including Howard Hewitt, Michel'e, along with performances on the area's casino circuit and related venues.
What is next?
Ashanti’s story doesn’t end here; it’s truly just beginning.
Her next Seattle-based performance is scheduled for June 16th for the Festival Sundiata/Black Arts Festival. With a scheduled performance time of 2pm (PST), she plans to perform some original work, including a “teaser” or two from her forthcoming EP. Grounded in influences of R and B, Soul, Classical, and Jazz, it is a sure-fire draw that can appeal to a wide array of audiences, including sounds such as "In My Eyes", a J. Bellamy produced experience (click HERE to listen).
And there’s more in store.
Expanding on her performing arts experience, she is part of the cast for the Seattle Opera (McCaw Hall) performance of the classic “Porgy and Bess”. The play runs nearly the entire month of August (August 3rd-26th), as it’s certainly one to keep on the calendar.
An album, live performances, and plays are on the immediate horizon. What kind of mark does she focus on leaving?
“With any of my work (i.e. music, stage, and related performing arts), I want to be known as truly being a lady. I’m going to express (in my work) things that women go through, but do so in an accessible way. Later on down the line, I want to make sure my daughter can look at what I’m doing and feel that what I’m doing is relevant and has meaning. And I want to make those who have supported and encouraged me proud”, she sincerely states.
That in and of itself is what makes her an artist different from others.
It’s time to show Ashanti some Love.
IMPORTANT NOTE: To stay informed of upcoming performances, please make sure to add her on social media on Instagram (@ashantilovemusic) and Facebook (Ashanti Loves Music).