Singer-songwriter Victoria Banks to open Hagerstown Community Concert series
Victoria Banks has a bachelor's degree in zoology. After her job in a fishery was eliminated, she moved to Nashville, Tenn., to become a songwriter. (Submitted photo / September 14, 2012)
The last few years have been very good to Victoria Banks.
She has written chart-topping hits for recording artists Sara Evans, Jessica Simpson and Terri Clark.
She has shared the stage with Reba McEntire, Randy Travis and Lonestar.
Her music has been featured on television and in movies.
And in 2010, she won top honors in both the Female Vocalist and Songwriter of the Year categories at the Canadian Country Music Awards.
To say she has risen to the top of her trade is an understatement.
But as a child growing up in rural Muskoka, Ontario, a career in country music was the furthest thing from her mind — not with the family she was born into.
"We were very musical," Banks said. "But it was all in a classical style."
Her aunt toured the world as a lyric mezzo soprano, won Juno Awards (Canadian Grammys) and was given the Order of Canada — one of the highest national honors. Her uncle toured with the Canadian Opera Company and starred in the entire run of "Phantom of the Opera" in Toronto. Her sister makes a living as an operatic soprano. And Banks, herself, is classically trained in piano and voice.
"So my choice to pursue country music was a little outside the box, to say the least," she joked.
But Banks, now 39, said this is exactly where she's supposed to be — living her dream as a singer-songwriter.
Banks will bring her talents to Hagerstown on Tuesday, Sept. 18, when she opens this season of the Hagerstown Community Concert Association at The Maryland Theatre.
The performance begins at 7:30 p.m.
There isn't a time, Banks said, when music hasn't been a part of her life.
"My first memories of music all involve listening to the antique cylinder records that my Dad collected," she said. "In fact, I wasn't aware of any music post-1940 until I went to school, discovered rock and roll and started playing in bands."
The old barbershop quartet-style cylinder recordings of Stephen Foster songs "were chock full of really fantastic songwriting," Banks recalled. "And I ate those up. Maybe that's why I'm writing songs for a living now."
Banks said she tried to go the "get a real job route" before she allowed herself to pursue music.
"I earned a bachelor's degree in zoology from the University of Toronto and I spent my summers working in the Fisheries Unit in the Muskoka Lakes area, where I grew up, in northern Ontario," she said. "In my graduating year, there was an election and the new premier for the province axed all of the funding and shut down the unit. Instead of a full-time job waiting for me at graduation, I had a blank slate."
Banks said it was terrifying. "But it also was very freeing," she said. "So I asked myself if I could do anything, what would it be? And the answer was songwriting."