In Theatre Trip’s “Spotlight On” series, we’re chatting with some of the most interesting and influential people in the theatre industry. And today we’re featuring Cameron Bernard Jones, a bass baritone actor who is from the US and currently based out of London.
Cameron Bernard Jones is in his second year at Motown the Musical in London’s West End. He currently plays a member of the Ensemble as well as the Dialect Coach. He’s represented by Oxford Adams Associates and has done several projects in musical theatre and opera, as well as voiceover work. And what’s next for Cameron? A voiceover gig for an episode for Black Mirror’s upcoming fifth season!
What inspired you to get into musical theatre and opera?
“Having been born into a musical family in New York City, I was surrounded by all genres of music, truly. My grandmother and uncle both worked extensively in the choral and classical music world. Opera was their favourite genre of performing art to listen to and see. They both exposed me to the worlds of opera, musical theatre, and orchestral concerts at a very young age. The first opera I ever saw was Madame Butterfly at the Metropolitan Opera House at New York’s world-renowned Lincoln Center. The first musical that my uncle ever took me to was Annie Get Your Gun with Bernadette Peters. And for my 10th birthday, I saw the opening year of Disney’s The Lion King on Broadway.
As a teenager in high school (at St. Benedict’s Prep in Newark, New Jersey), I continued to do performing arts as an extracurricular activity. I was a member of the Barbershop Quartet, Vocal Ensemble, Choir and Drama Guild. I never honestly thought that I could pursue the performing arts professionally. (Fun Fact: I almost went to University to study biochemistry.) If it were not for my English teacher Marc Onion, along with the help of my music teachers (Russell Marsh and Peter Holsberg) and my Drama Guild director (Pat Flynn), I would not be where I am today. All of them gave me their wisdom and undivided attention when it came to finally deciding that I would not pursue biochemistry as a career path; but rather the performing arts.
I decided to go to Northwestern University to enter in the Voice & Opera Performance program in the Bienen School of Music. While at Northwestern, I had my formal and classical voice training in opera, but I decided to go against the grain and have my onstage performance experience in musical theatre. I was also a member of two dance groups, and always kept myself busy when it came to performing. If I wasn’t in the practice room studying or learning new opera repertoire, I was in rehearsal for a dance show or a musical. It truly was a fun and challenging time, all while forming the foundation of who I am as an artist today.”
Is there an opera or musical that particularly resonates with you?
“Yes to both! As far as opera goes I only have a true blue connection with one and one only: Porgy & Bess. Technically, it is the only opera I have ever performed (professionally and non-professionally). It tells the story of the actual characters, setting, emotions and experiences which existed back in that time. The music that the Gershwins composed is the heartbeat of not only blackness in America, but America as a whole. It truly is America’s music and it resonates deeply within me.
I had the opportunity to perform the show in Charleston, South Carolina in 2016. To perform that opera in the region it was actually inspired by/set in was mind-bowing and awe-inspiring. The culture that is referenced all throughout the opera can still be found today. If you ever have a chance, look up the inspiration behind the opera and learn what George & Ira Gershwin drew from when composing the iconic opera.
As it pertains to musicals, I must say — without bias — Motown the Musical. As I had mentioned, I grew up listening to ALL genres of music. My mom and dad always played their vinyl record players and one certain radio station that played the ‘Oldies But Goodies’. This was the music of the Motown Era. To be able to perform in a musical that tells the story of Motown while featuring so many of its iconic songs is so enriching. Everyday I have a moment of ‘WOW! I grew up on this music!’ Because these songs were a part of my musical upbringing, Motown the Musical will always have a special place in my heart.”
“You have to know your art inside-out; like the back of your hand; like it is the only thing you depend upon.”
What type of education would you say is necessary for becoming a successful performer?
“School and formal education is not for everyone. For me, it is all about balance. For those that haven’t had formal education, there are so many ways to learn your craft. A lot of it comes just from actually being onstage. But in order to truly and genuinely be a well-rounded and successful performer, you have to know your art inside-out; like the back of your hand; like it is the only thing you depend upon. I think musicality and stage presence is something that if you don’t have naturally, you must attain elsewhere. But these are just two of many pieces to the foundation of performance. Whatever type of education you choose to go forth with, know that you have to go even further to really achieve that balance.”
Do you have any tips for taking care of your voice?
“Rest and hydration. I stand by those two things wholeheartedly. I personally don’t like prescribing anything else. Everyone has their tricks and rituals but I can confidently say that all performers need rest and hydration.”
Are you listening to any musical soundtracks or cast recordings at the moment?
“My iTunes is such a mish-mash of everything. Currently I have been getting into the Once On This Island new Broadway cast recording; it is so GOOD! I always seem to have Rent in some playlist of mine and In The Heights when I want to feel nostalgic about home.”
You’ve done quite a bit of traveling with the shows you’ve done. What has been your favorite place that you’ve visited so far?
“Copenhagen, Denmark! That place became a second home to me while performing Porgy & Bess at the Royal Danish Opera. We spent about five months there and I grew to love the place so much that I started learning Danish little by little. I have been back quite a few times since leaving in 2014. It also has a special place in my heart because it is basically where my professional career took a huge leap and landed me in Europe.”
Have you ever had to play a role that you weren’t exactly comfortable with?
“Yes definitely — this is another Porgy & Bess reference. I had the opportunity to sing in a concert version of Porgy & Bess with a small, humble theatre company, in the title role of Porgy. I was much younger at the time. And despite having the bass vocal quality that Porgy needs as a character, it was too much of a sing for me. It was definitely tiring to do as I hadn’t yet built all the stamina needed for that role. After the performance was done, my uncle said to me, “Now don’t pick that back up until you’re 40.” I am surely taking heed to his words on that!”
Is there a particular role that you would love to play one day?
“A dream role of mine is Coalhouse Walker in Ragtime. I am determined to play that!”
“Theatre brings balance and harmony to this chaotic world.”
What advice would you give those who are just starting out with acting?
“There will be so many no’s; but KEEP GOING — DON’T STOP. There were so many times when I have gotten discouraged; even well into my career. I can’t tell you how many times I thought that pursuing this career was a mistake. It always happened when I was unemployed and looking for work. Because this industry is so up-and-down and so unpredictable, it gets really tricky and challenging when it comes to finding work. I had to really soul search and gain some understanding that I was put on this earth for this. That is what helped me continue. Just know that there is something out there for you and that sometimes you need to go through tough times before you strike gold.
KNOW YOUR WORTH. The audition room will either be your best friend or your worst enemy; but it is important to put your best self forward. Try not to get into the heads of those at the table watching you. As long as you know who you are as an artist and performer, are honest in what you put forth, have pride in your work, and respect the craft, you can make it far. So when you are in that room, sell it to ’em without apology and walk out of that room with your head held high!
KEEP LEARNING. For those that decided to go to Stage School or Uni to pursue this craft, know that your education doesn’t stop once you’ve received your certificate/diploma/degree. Keep going to classes; refresh yourself on things, and tackle entirely new things that you have never dealt with before. You’ll thank yourself for it later on in your life.”
Why is theatre important?
“Theatre (and other art forms) brings balance and harmony to this chaotic world. I do truly believe that it is therapeutic and helps towards saving lives and souls. It fosters imagination in those who witness it, and it introduces the mind to new worlds, both real and unreal, in those who perform it.”
What did you think of this interview with Cameron Bernard Jones?
Are any of you working as or aspiring to be an actor or actress? If so, we would love to hear all about it in the comments below! And in the meantime, you can read even more of our theatre interviews with inspiring people in the industry!
* The featured Image is by Todd McNeel.
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Author: Stacy Karyn
Stacy Karyn is the founder of Theatre Trip, author of The Thespian’s Bucket List, and creator of The Cast Album List. She has a TESOL drama certificate, a BA in theatre, and has worked and interned with Broadway and Off-Broadway theaters.