SW Va. musicians defining their success

By: Brooke Landers

Local musicians in Blacksburg, Virginia are young, ambitious, and talented. Yet, pursuing a lifelong career in music is not always the goal for every musician. This small local circle of bands and solo acts is maintaining a pace that balances their appetite for success and their contentment with their current stage.

Photo taken by Brooke Landers on Feb. 18, 2022, in Blacksburg, Va. Local music fans cheer for a band playing at the Milk Parlor, a popular venue for small local artists.

Shak Kataev, the financial manager for a local band called Parotia, is leery of Parotia developing as a band outside of the local Southwest Virginia area. 

“In our past, band leaders were more in an expansionist mindset and fostered connections outside of Blacksburg. As of late, this is not true”, said Kataev. 

Though Parotia has seen great success in the Blacksburg area, Kataev explains that maintaining a steady roster of band members and trying to keep up publishing new music has made it hard to picture the band growing out of its local area. 

“Our bassist left and graduated. No tentative plans have been made to find a suitable replacement,” said Kataev.

Even if replacements can be found, his outlook on Parotia’s streaming success is pretty pessimistic. According to the global music distributor, Ditto, each stream on Spotify only makes the artist $0.003-$0.005. Thus, Kataev feels content with the lineup of shows Parotia maintains locally and isn’t too keen on pursuing Spotify success or expanding Parotia’s domain.

Southwest Virginia not only has a thriving local band scene but also has some blossoming solo acts, like Amelia Empson. As the embodiment of Appalachia, Empson is a local farmer and true native of this area, who pours authenticity into her music. 

“I’m using my music as an outlet to process my emotions and feelings, it’s kind of like journaling for me, it’s where a lot of my lyrics come from. I really love pen and paper, that’s what music feels like to me,” said Empson.

Though her passion for sharing her music is undeniable, her outlook on making a break for an arena bigger than the local Southwest Virginia music scene is not on the immediate radar.

“Right now where I am, I really enjoy the pace I’m at and I’m not tired of it,” said Empson. 

Networking as a solo artist proves to be different and potentially more challenging than networking the local music scene with a band. Still, Empson has friends she can jam with and a local support system of other artists. She is content with her place in local music for now but still leaves the door open for her aspirations of having music as a full-time career.

“It is something I’d like to turn into a career if I can support myself and keep up with my relationships,” said Empson.

Photo by Brooke Landers taken Feb. 28, 2022, in Blacksburg, Va. A crowd enjoys a concert performed by Parotia.

Both Parotia and Empson share the local stage of the Southwest Virginia music scene and continue to add their own unique contributions to the ever-growing sounds of Appalachia. The balance and consistency from both acts show that their passion for what they do bears no mind to the size of the stage they play on.

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