Esteban Blanco looked over the lush, green treetops of his home in Costa Rica from the window of an airplane. The 19-year-old was headed to America and chasing his dreams. Eventually, they would bring him to Arlington.
Now 41, Blanco is a board member of Metro YMCA and a member of Young Men for Arlington, as well as the Downtown Arlington Rotary Club. He also runs Blanco IT, an information technology consulting firm.
“My official title is chief geek officer,” he says of the business which focuses on customer service and honesty.
“We are very cognizant when billing of not charging customers for anything they don’t use,” he says, adding that he’s also proud of the fact that the company doesn’t charge customers “a penny more” than what a part actually costs. A few contractors are used, when needed, but Blanco says he does much of the work himself, getting under desks, climbing ladders, bringing drills … “doing what it takes.”
Blanco learned his work ethic from his father, Oscar. However, his love for singing came from hearing his mother, Maria Isabel, sing soprano while he was growing up. Since childhood, Blanco dreamed of traveling the world and singing before large crowds.
He cut his teeth in Costa Rican dive bars. Then in 1996, while at a convention of Catholic musicians in Orlando, someone heard his impressive vocals and asked him to audition for Celebrant Singers. He did and later received a letter of acceptance saying that he needed to be in Los Angeles by a certain date.
Blanco’s dream seemed to be within grasp until he learned that each musician had to raise $3,500 to cover half of their tour expenses. He recalls telling a Celebrant representative that it was impossible before hanging up the phone.
“I went back to my room,” he says, ”and I was pretty bummed.”
Shortly afterward, Blanco’s grandmother called saying she had a ticket to LA and asked if he could use it. Blanco declined his grandmother’s offer, but then 30 minutes later, Jon Stemkoski, the founder of Celebrant Singers, called and ended up offering to pay for Blanco’s entire tour if he could get to L.A.
”I hang up with him,” Blanco says. “And I call grandma.”
After moving to L.A. in 1997, Blanco traveled the world, performing in 24 countries and 49 states. He recalls rehearsing 14 hours a day and reading music at night in bed with a flashlight to make sure he had his part down perfectly. While on tour with other Celebrants, a violist named Heather caught Blanco’s eye. He asked her out. She said yes, and they fell in love and were married in 2000.
After leaving the road, Heather got a teaching job with Irving ISD, and Blanco went to work as a special education aide – until the school’s superintendent learned he was computer savvy — which launched his computer tech career.
Soon after they began working at Irving ISD, the two began searching for an apartment and found themselves in Arlington.
“I saw the big sign on [State Highway] 360 that said, ‘Arlington,’ and I felt like I was entering home,” says Blanco, who hasn’t stopped dreaming. “One of my dreams is to be able to sing [the National Anthem] at the Rangers Stadium.”
Although Blanco says he isn’t “hyper-religious,” he does credit God for opening doors.
“The dream of that little boy was to sing in massive venues around the world,” he says. “And it happened.”