Mercer University is open to the many creative avenues that its students decide to embark on. Its centrally liberal arts education allows students to hone in on their craft, creativity and character. One student, in particular, is exploring his musical identity through song.
Cameron Rolling, a senior music education major, knew that his passion for music began when he was a child. This invigorated him to further nurture it throughout his childhood and young adult life.
“My mom loves to tell me that I have been singing before I even could speak,” Rolling said. “It was an innate thing. I just knew I loved singing because that’s all I did.”
Rolling’s vocal roots begin in the church, particularly the Pentecostal and non-denominational Church of God in Christ. He also garnered some experience in the missionary Baptist church that would eventually help shape his overall vocal style.
“Gospel and worship style singing is where my foundation is,” Rolling said. “But when I got to high school and joined chorus for the first time, I fell in love with the world of choral and classical music. So, I guess you can say that I have a foothold in both.”
Rolling realized during a high school music competition that Mercer was the right fit to channel his passion. His affinity with Mercer was based upon an impactful encounter he had during the competition with Dr. Stanley Roberts, the associate dean of music at the University.
“I knew nothing about him and nothing about Mercer, but I just knew that over the course of those three days, I was transformed,” Rolling said. “I was like, ‘I don’t know this man or where he teaches, but wherever he teaches, that’s where I’m going to go.’”
Since his enrollment at the University, Rolling has participated in multiple vocal competitions. He recently participated in the virtual CS Music Classical Singer Contest and won the audience choice first place title in the classical university category with the selection “Il lacerto spirito” from Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra.
“I was so happy to feel the support from all the people that were pushing me and that voted for me,” Rolling said. “I was also happy to see all my work come to a head, and a good head at that.”
Nevertheless, preparing for the competition and navigating the semester was not easy, considering the limitations that COVID-19 has placed on the music department at the University.
“It’s been crazy but interesting because singers are deemed super spreaders and we have a lot of stipulations with masks and distancing,” Rolling said. “It’s also been a good thing because it has allowed me to cherish solitude and helped me connect deeper with the music.”
Rolling has been able to take advantage of learning from various musical scholars and extraordinaires throughout the past four years, and he feels confident in his abilities wherever he goes after graduation.
“I’m in a bittersweet state, but the sweet part about it is that I have come this far and I’ve had great experiences on the way,” Rolling said. “I feel like I have milked this and the School of Music for as much as I can possibly get out of it.”
Next semester, Rolling will be putting his education to work as a high school music director. He also plans to apply to graduate school for choral conducting.
“I’m looking forward to what’s ahead along this journey in this path of music, learning and growing,” Rolling said. “It’s bittersweet now, but you can’t stay in one place forever because you don’t want to be stagnant. That’s the goal.”