Artist of the Week Omar Camps-Kamrin ’20 on Community Forming Through Music

Whether you’ve seen him working in Underhill Library, practicing in the Lang Music Hall, or gracing the stages around campus, you’ve certainly seen music major Omar Camps-Kamrin ’20 with his trademark smile and friendly disposition. As both a peer and friend of Camps-Kamrin, I looked forward to sitting down with him and talking about exactly how he got started with music.

It all started, says Camps-Kamrin, with Egypt.

“My mom’s an Egyptologist, so when I was five, we moved to Cairo. We lived in Cairo for seven years, and we were always moving around so I was hopping schools every year. [There] I did the occasional play, like Hansel and Gretel’ and ‘Little Red Riding Hood’. When we moved back to the U.S., there was this community children’s theatre in our neighborhood called the Pied Pipers Children’s Theatre. That’s when I really started performing.”

After moving between schools for seven years, Camps-Kamrin was used to being the new kid. But moving from one country to another was a whole different level of new. Luckily, at the Pied Pipers Children’s Theatre, Camps-Kamrin found a tightly knit community and home away from home.

“It sort of became a second home, outlet community for me, which I think was a really big part of the appeal. I think especially coming back and being kind of new, that was one of the things that really drew me in, there was just a built-in community. That part of performing was, and still is, really important to me.”

For Camps-Kamrin, music is all about community. He repeatedly stressed how important sharing and collaborating was for him, in both his creation and performance of music.

“Writing music, when it’s collaborative, can be so fun. In theatre and so many other art forms, you get to step into people’s shoes and think about the world differently,” Camps-Kamrin mused with a smile on his face. “And then to do that with other people — it’s a crazy thing and so cool to me.”

More than just sharing and collaborating with individuals, Camps-Kamrin finds it vital to work with and build communities.

“Collaboration and creating with communities is a big thing for me. And I think that sticks with me personally just because of how that was a huge part of music and theatre and art for me at the beginning.”

But, even though now Camps-Kamrin can’t imagine doing anything else, he didn’t enter Swarthmore as a music major. Laughing at the look of shock on my face, Camps-Kamrin explained, “I came in freshman year with the mindset of — I love music, I love theatre, I love dance and visual art, and I’d love to continue doing it on the side, but I have to find a ‘serious’ major. So freshman year, I took physics, I took calc, and it was super cool. But I wanted to keep doing music and theatre, and slowly it started drawing me in.”

Soon after, Camps-Kamrin started questioning why he wasn’t doing music as his major.

“I thought to myself, ‘Why would I keep the thing that I love doing, the thing that really brings me joy, why avoid having that be my main area of study? Why not just do it?’ So I looked at the music major and I thought — I want to take every single one of those classes. And that was the point I thought, ‘Why don’t I do the music major?’”

Now, during his senior spring, Camps-Kamrin is involved in a great variety of unique music projects, including conducting for the lab orchestra, writing a piece for both Swarthmore’s orchestra and the professional group in residence “Music from China,” and staging his very own children’s musical.

“Me and my friend Lali [Pizarro ’20] wrote a children’s musical! I wrote the music and lyrics, she wrote the book. She’s doing the scene directing, I’m doing the music directing. I think it’s gonna be very fun with a very fun group of people.”

As far as his goals for the future, Camps-Kamrin is still considering a great many career paths, including writing musicals or film scores. But, most importantly, Camps-Kamrin just wants to do what he loves and to use it for good.

“I’m just trying to find something I love doing. I want to find that, whatever it is, and then harness that for good.” Smiling to himself, Camps-Kamrin added, “I just feel like telling stories is so powerful. And however they’re told, I think music can be a very powerful part of that.”

Featured image courtesy of Omar Camps-Kamrin

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