While many high school seniors are just beginning to pursue or discover their career, Ashton Edminster has been steadily working towards hers for six years.
"At 11 years old I thought, 'if Hanna Montana is doing this now at 16, she must have started really early. I need to start now' and I'm glad I did," the now 17-year-old singer and songwriter said. "I decided if wanted to do it as a career, I needed to get some training. So I begged my mom for voice lessons."
Edminster later added a song writing coach, a producer and an artist Representative manager to her team. Her first single “Break the Distance” debuted in the Top 10 on the iTunes Singer/Songwriter charts and sold 1,000 downloads in the first 24 hours late last year. She currently has more than 15,000 followers on Twitter and more than 10,000 followers on her YouTube channel.
But that success is not without its price, the Midlothian teen and her mother Cathy said.
"She does miss out on a lot but she knew that going in," Cathy said.
This year, Ashton said she will be attending her first homecoming game. One of the biggest losses is free time with friends, she said.
"They ask can I hang out on the weekends but that is when most of my shows are. We have to make a schedule with my friends," she said with a chuckle.
The family also made the decision to Ashton out of public school as a freshman and enrolled her at Texas Virtual Academy, an online public school.
Students of the academy get the options on working on their own as long as they keep up or ahead of the state approved curriculum or participating in group session online with state certified teachers in each subject.
"The greatest thing we wanted to do was give families an option if the traditional school situation and schedule are not working for them," said Sara Baker, Head of School for the academy.
Having the ability to set her own schedule to accommodate afternoon performances, time in the studio and to interact with her fan base were the main draws to online schooling, Ashton said.
"Switch to online school was one of the best decisions because if I hadn't I wouldn't have time for social media or to write songs," she said.
So instead she takes classes on a laptop at home, in the car on the way to shows or in between writing song lyrics and recording sessions. The teen writes her own original music and lyrics.
"A lot of my music is about waiting for your future person. With a lot of music, it is love songs or going out to party. A lot of my music is about waiting for that person because I think that is more relevant to kids than what is on the radio," she said. "The song is not just they lyrics but the melody and each of them have the same value."
She writes a song a day right now and is excited to follow the development of her own personal style, moving from the combination of acoustics and soul that dominated her first song releases to include more rhythm, blues and beats.
"Where I'm at with my music right now is where I need to be," Ashton said. "I like to share my music with my followers. They tell me it is good to see me grow as a musician. It is really cool they have followed me for so long they can see that."
While she does often jump between songs when writing, all the ideas come from her heart, she said.
"I don't like when people say 'you should write a song about this.' I can do it, but you can tell the difference. Music has to come from my heart," she said.
She will go back to the studio on Oct. 1 to begin working on the newest set of music and is looking forward to releasing them with music videos as well.
She started posting 6-second vine videos about two years ago and then moved to the longer format of YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms a year ago. So far, Twitter is her favorite forum because of the close connections it lets her develop with her fans.
"Twitter is great. You can post videos or what every you think. They message me and I get to message them back right there," she said. "I have never been that popular at school so having people follow me online is kinda weird. Most of them just followed me on the internet. A lot of them are in New York and some are from Europe."
While that connection with fans is a great source of encouragement, there are of course the nay-sayers, she said.
"I love constructive criticism. I'm not a fan of just criticism," Ashton said. "It hurts for a couple seconds, but I realize they are just sitting behind a screen criticizing someone they don't know."
Live performances are another big way she connects with old fans and new ones. She doesn't really get stage fright, Ashton said, but does feel some anxiety when performing in front of familiar faces.
"My friends are super supportive. They like to come out to my shows and it is so cute because I'll see them in the audience singing along with my song," she said. "The only times I get nervous is when I'm playing for my peers. I don't really care what people think of me, but I want to make my friends proud."
Her music career and flexible school schedule also mean she gets to spend more time with her parents while pursuing her dream, Ashton said.
"I'm lucky to have them," she said. "I get to spend a lot of time with my parents. I feel so thankful to be able to do what I'm doing but still stay close to them."
While her family doesn't have any recent connections to music, Ashton said one of her great-great-grandfathers may have played saxophone in a band, her parents are learning the music along with her.
"My dad can't carry a tune, but he listens to my music and says 'I like the melody on that one.' He has learned a lot through this process," she said.
"I'm very pleased with the person Ashton has become," Cathy said. "She has a good head on her shoulders and is making some good decisions."
As she ends her high school phase, Ashton will have some choices to make in order to continue her career path, but her parents are confident she is not going in blind, Cathy said.
"We are very business-minded parents with two artistic children," she said. "Ashton has learned very early the business side of music. From her very first song, I went out and made an LLC for her. It took a few months for her to realize that just because you are selling a song doesn't mean you are profitable."
"I love making music but it is expensive," Ashton agreed.
All of the money generated from downloads of her songs and purchased merchandise goes into an account to help offset the cost of recording songs, but Ashton has not turned a profit yet, Cathy said. That is not surprising for a young artist just starting out, she explained.
"We feel her dad and I have provided the best of instruction and studio so it will be interesting to see where she goes from here," Cathy said. "As far as music goes, she is really coming into her own."
And Ashton said she continues to work and keep an open mind about her future.
"In the entertainment industry, the best thing you can do is meet a bunch of people because you never know what they will be doing in a few years," she said. "I'm just going to see what will happen. I may go on tour and share my music with thousands of people, that would be cool. Or I like live theater so I may go on Broadway."
But for now, she is just happy to be working on new material.
"I feel like right now I just need to work on my new sound and see if people like it," she said. "As a musician, there are always things I can do more of. I want to do this forever so I have to find a way to make a living at it. I'm an optimist but I'm also a realist."
To follow her schedule or find her on social media, visit www.musicbyashton.com.
Contact Bethany Kurtz at 469-517-1450 or email email@example.com. Follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/BethanyKurtzMidloMirror or on Twitter @bethmidlomirror.