Make time to accomplish your goals

Each morning, Travis Blanks ’20 wakes well before his first class to get in a quick practice before his school day starts. But Blanks, a four-year member of the Wartburg football team, doesn’t head for the field or the weight room in those early morning hours. Instead, he makes the walk from his Founders Hall room to Bachman Fine Arts Center, where he can play his trombone without waking his roommates.

Once he’s done practicing, the computer science major heads to the Science Center for class or to study. After class he’s off to The W for football practice or weightlifting. After dinner he either has symphony or Knightliters jazz band practice, and if he doesn’t, he usually heads back to the Fine Arts Center for another two hours of trombone practice.

Finding the time to practice his trombone, play football, and stay on top of his coursework has been challenging, but it’s certainly possible, he said.

“You just have to have a lot of discipline. You have to make the time. I always find time to practice my trombone regardless of how I am feeling, whether I am tired from the day or not,” he said. “I’m used to doing both because I’ve been doing it for so long, so it doesn’t really seem like work or a struggle because I am having fun.”

As a middle school student in Houston, Blanks played football because he liked it. He tried the trombone because his sister played in the band, and he thought the slide function looked like more fun than the valves on other brass instruments. As he started looking at colleges, he didn’t want to choose between his two passions.

Travis Blanks
Travis Blanks

So, he chose Wartburg where he could play football and the trombone, study computer science, and still graduate in four years.

“I had a lot of opportunities to go to college in Texas, but none of them would have let me do both band and football,” he said. “When I came here, I liked the environment, the football program, and the fine arts program. And the financial aid package made it affordable for all four years.”

Blanks’ efforts on the field and in the music practice rooms were recognized this year when he received the Canfield Oil Can Award, a football award that goes to the nonstarter who contributed the most to the team.

“This award stems from longtime coach Don Canfield, who felt it was the most important award on the team,” said Rick Willis, head football coach. “Travis was selected by his teammates, but my guess is he was chosen due in large part to the tremendous spirit he has in everything he is involved with on our team. He always gives 100 percent, whether its’s in practice, in the weight room, or when he was providing support to his teammates who were on the field.”   

He also was selected for a solo in the Wartburg Community Symphony’s February concert, where he will be featured during the ensemble’s performance of Launy Grøndahl’s “Trombone Concerto.”

“I was so relieved when I was told I had won the solo competition. I have been trying for four years,” he said, adding that his family will travel to Waverly for the first time to hear him perform live as a college musician. “One of the main things I’ve been trying to focus on is the musicianship of this song. There are parts where I, as the musician, have to interpret the music. It’s almost like ad libbing, without any tempo in mind, so there can be a very freestyle feel to it. One of the reasons I like this song so much is because I can express myself.”

Though pursuing athletics and music in college isn’t for everyone, Blanks would encourage others with similar passions to at least try.

“You just have to set a goal. You won’t get anywhere without a goal in mind. Write it down. That will promote discipline and a lot of effort,” he said.

In addition to his work on the field and on the stage, Blanks also has found time to get into the Waverly community, where he has volunteered at St. Paul’s Lutheran School and the Waverly-Shell Rock Middle School as part of his leadership minor.

“My whole Wartburg experience brought me out of my shell a little bit. The experiences I have had in the community have changed me into a person who looks to help others,” he said. “All the opportunities I’ve been given have brought out aspects of my personality I didn’t know I had. Being able to bring light to a person’s eyes and make people happy inspires me to be a better person.”