Cameron Colson, who is majoring in choral music education at Eastern New Mexico University, had an article published in the "Student Times" section of the December 2020 edition of the American Choral Directors Association's (ACDA) Choral Journal.
Cameron discusses the inspiration for the article and his time at ENMU.
How did your article in ACDA's Choral Journal come about? Tell us about the writing process.
My advisor, choir director and one of my mentors, Dr. Jason Paulk, who also happens to be the ENMU ACDA Club advisor, reached out to me during the beginning of COVID-19 season and asked if I would like to write for the Journal about the subject of COVID-19 affecting students in choir. I agreed, and he gave me a few ideas as a prompt. I worked with a few students, interviewing them and picking their minds about the topic and taking down quotes for the article. As you can imagine, there are a lot of feelings of outrage, frustration and sadness from students, not to mention the political implications of the subject. I wrote the first draft with the help of a few friends from the Music Building and sent it for review to Dr. Paulk. The first draft really did not stick; it leaned too far into the political and too deeply into the despair and anger that so many felt. To me, it felt cold and bitter during a time where I think so many people needed to feel warmth.
I scrapped quite a bit of it in favor of a more artistic approach, using a piece of music that kept ringing in my ears the more I thought about the topic. "Here's to Song," written by Allister MacGillivray, was a song we performed with the University Choir my freshman year. Its message has stuck with me ever since. The sentiment that making music with friends holds power and meaning beyond any material value paired with the concept of moving forward with that power once it has ended was the sort of message I wanted to share in my article. I needed to face the reality of disappointment and sadness that so many people felt, but rather than wallow in despair, I wanted the article to be a moment of nostalgia and remembrance to bring hope, anticipation, and preparation for the future.
Writing the article at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic helped to solidify that determination within myself to address the grief I may have felt, but then to let the spirit of creativity, growth and connection through music (inspired by music) carry me through the changes, trials and obstacles that the future held. When I finished that second draft with this spirit, the article made so much more sense, it felt right and only a few edits were necessary. As much as the writing process was for the article, it was also a powerfully personal process for understanding the crazy changes the world was going through.
What does it mean to you to have your article published?
I value what I learned from writing the article so much that the fact that it was published on a national scale seems almost unreal. I am not sure if other people will truly understand the article in the way that I feel for it, but I am honored that I had the opportunity to speak to somebody out there and maybe help them feel that sense of nostalgic warmth and connection that I gained from writing it.
What advice would you give to students looking to have their work published?
Sometimes you have to scrap the first draft. If something doesn't feel right, trust those feelings. Trust and listen to your editor. For me, it was my advisor who helped guide me in a direction that I was ultimately most happy with—question your thoughts and question others and their thoughts. Explore ideas. Write them all down, review what applies and then write from the heart. I thought I knew what I wanted to say before I chose to interview other people, but what I wanted to say changed when I realized there was so much more outside of myself. It's best to remember that most people will struggle to connect with your writing if you are not genuine.
Why did you choose your field of study?
I always knew that I wanted to teach and make some noise in the field of education on many different levels. I love to learn, and the process of learning and helping others to learn is an experience that I hold dear and had multiple opportunities to do while in high school through many different leadership and extracurricular avenues. Music, and specifically choral directing, called for me when it came time to choose a course of action or a subject to teach.
Why did you choose to attend ENMU?
I felt drawn to the school's Music Program because of the personal experiences I had in the Music Building during high school. That seems simple, but it was powerful enough to convince me to come here.
Which semester do you plan to graduate?
Fall 2020 was the first semester of my senior year and, while I was hoping to student teach and graduate in spring of 2021, I made the decision to postpone some of the classes so that I can have in-person student teaching and a few of the in-person classroom management classes that give you real-life experience for teaching. I will now be graduating spring of 2022.
Which academic honors have you earned during your time at ENMU?
I have received dean's list honors every semester I have been at Eastern, I believe. I have also received a choral scholarship every year of my attendance along with the Garland Tillery Scholarship, the Edward Ortiz Memorial Endowment, the Jack and Ladeane Murphy Music Scholarship, the Jim Slone Endowment Vocal Scholarship, the Paschke Young Singers Scholarship, a National Honor Society national scholarship and a Friends of Music scholarship. I have been very blessed to have been awarded financial support through the school's music program. I have also been recognized for "Outstanding Leadership" within the Department of Housing and Dining at Eastern New Mexico University. I also got second place for my voice in a virtual vocal artistry competition last semester.
Which activities have you been involved in at Eastern?
Outside of the classroom, I work as a hall director for Curry Hall for the Department of Housing and Dining at ENMU. I worked as an RA before that at Guadalupe Hall. I have had the opportunity of being associated with many clubs on campus. I am the president of the Latter-Day Saint Club, the president of the ACDA Club and I participated in writing the club bylaws for the ENMU Esports Club. I am also a member of the ENMU CNAFME Club. I have most recently finished serving as a senator for the Student Government Association and have been sworn in for my first semester as the vice president of the Student Government Association. I have also participated in every production the Department of Music has put on since coming to Eastern. That has included the production of "The 25th Annual Putnum County Spelling Bee," an Opera Scenes production, "Titanic the Musical" and the most recent production of the opera "Dido and Aeneas." I will be playing the role of Beast in this coming semester's production of the Radio Opera version of "Beauty and the Beast."
Where is your favorite place on the ENMU campus?
Honestly, I think the campus is extremely beautiful, and I have so many different moods that I can't pick a single favorite place. At the beginning of the summer of 2020, to pass the time, I planned routes for walking all over campus; I've walked SO many miles all over it. I just think it's so beautiful and I have found moments of peace in so many different places; it's too difficult to choose just one.
Which professors have served as mentors to you?
I must thank Dr. Paulk for being an excellent mentor, advisor and teacher. I am also so grateful for the clarity and peace that my voice teacher Dr. Travis Sherwood has always helped me to find for myself. Dr. Stephanie Beinlich, Dr. Gregory Gallagher, Dr. John Olsen, Dr. Kathleen Wagner, Mrs. Kayla Paulk, Steve Estock and so many more that I am probably forgetting have made a big difference in my life.
Which class has stood out to you the most?
Dr. Travis Sherwood's voice lessons, paired with his vocal pedagogy class, is just such an excellent class! It helped me so much formulate and solidify some of my core beliefs and philosophies on teaching, teaching music and being a mindful and physically and mentally healthy student, which I hope to apply as a teacher. That class is the epidemy of a full body and mind experience. Dr. Travis Sherwood truly knows his stuff. I also love Choir, of course!
What is your favorite part of life as a Greyhound?
Eastern's value is almost incomparable considering the cost of attendance with the number of experiences, opportunities and growth that I have experienced so far. Again, very simplified, but so true. It's good to be a Greyhound!
Tell us about your family and background.
I was born in Sun Valley, Idaho, but grew up in Edgewood, New Mexico. I have two older siblings who are married and one younger sister, who is a freshman in college. My father works for Choice Hotels International, and my mother is a writer, editor and stay-at-home mother.
What do you hope to pursue as a career?
To put it boldly, I hope to drum up excellence and standard for not only the music classroom but for the field of education in general. I want to gain experience teaching music, providing an effective, mindful and academically successful process for guiding students in a high school setting. I know that after I have solidified my own process with years of experience in the classroom that I will eventually move on to administration and possibly politics to help guide and lead other teachers to a more effective and hopeful direction for the education system.
What do you hope to ultimately achieve in your career?
My biggest desire when approaching my career in education is to provide guidance, help and solutions for people who feel stuck, disenfranchised and lost within the school system that we have today. In the classroom, those "people" are students who may enter the classroom simply for choir, but I hope to have them leave as healthier people, musicians and community members. On an administrative level, those "people" also include teachers, parents and an entire community. No matter which path I end up following, for which I have my options open (teaching, administration, secondary, elementary, college, politics, etc.), all that I hope to achieve is to help facilitate and foster a healthy community of love, excellence and music wherever I land.
What other dreams do you have?
As a big dreamer, I have so many very specific dreams that may seem slightly disconnected from my career goals. However, I have enjoyed a love for overall health and often dream of owning and running a gym. I sometimes dream of being a counselor and may add that to my qualifications going into my career in the future. I have always had a childhood dream of conducting the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
What are your hobbies?
Music, art, writing, fitness, mental health, scouting with the Boy Scouts of America, vibes, conversations and dancing.