Comfortable With Himself

Photos and video by Brandon Parigo; words by Stacy Downs; graphics by Sarah Richardson | Strategic Marketing and Communications

Video and Q & A with a Conservatory student on how UMKC changed his life

Get to know our students, and you’ll know what UMKC is all about

Cameron Miller, ’18
Bachelor of Fine Arts in performance and choreography with an emphasis in ballet and modern
School: Conservatory of Music and Dance
Claycomo, Missouri



Why did you choose UMKC?

I chose UMKC for a number of reasons, mainly that a mentor of mine is the chair of the department (Paula Weber) where I am studying. I knew her guidance would inspire me to achieve the goals I have for myself. I also chose UMKC because it provides an excellent, well-rounded education that other colleges tend to lack. My degree program requires a variety of classes that ensure exposure to various subjects that provide students important information both within and outside their chosen field of study. Lastly, being a Kansas City native the convenience of the school’s location along with in-state tuition were also major deciding factors.



How would you describe your UMKC experience?

It’s helped me grow as a person. I’ve become comfortable with myself. A year ago, I came out as a gay man. Slowly, I told friends and family. It was very difficult for me. I’m very introverted. There was some backlash. My closest friends have helped me get through.

My senior solo was about the experience. David Justin, associate professor of dance, choreographed it and did a fantastic job.



Why did you choose dance?

My single mother raised me and my sister. Dance became an escape. It taught me self-discipline. It taught me ways to move my body. I’d be a couch potato if I didn’t.

I love what I do. I have been blessed to vigorously study what I am passionate about on a daily basis. The choice was obvious to say the least. If I had chosen a different degree path I would most likely have pursued physical therapy, health sciences or something in the medical field.



What are the challenges and benefits of the program?

Just like any degree path, there are many challenges within the program. First and foremost, it is a self-motivated career path. The intensity of the program is high to say the least. I begin my day at 9 a.m. and often don’t leave the building until 9 at night. I will generally have short randomized breaks, but am usually unaware of what happens outside the Conservatory walls during those times.

Another challenge is the physical strain dancers in the conservatory endure on a daily basis. We tear up our bodies trying to make the perfect shape, the perfect line, while staring at ourselves in the mirror pointing out our every flaw. It takes a physiological toll on a dancer’s mindset and self-confidence. Every day is different; some days are better than others. I have learned to train myself to accept the days where I am unable to give 110 percent and use my body to the best of its ability on days where I am only able to give 80 percent.

I feel the challenges of the program coexist with the benefits. With the intensity of the program being so high, I feel it has helped prepare me for a professional career.



Since entering college, what have you learned about yourself?

I have learned to let things go when they don’t work out in the exact way you have imagined them to. I have also learned to accept myself for who I am and not to live my life pleasing others.

What’s the best piece of advice you have ever received from a professor?

Never take it for granted. You never know when it will be taken away from you. Make every class, every performance count because it could be your last.



>Learn about his dance partnership at the Conservatory


Are you a first-generation college student?

I am the first in my family to attend college right after high school graduation. I take great pride in the fact that I was able to pursue my college education immediately after high school.

What is one word that best describes you and why?

Diligent. I take pride in what I do. Why do something if you’re not going to complete it to the best of your abilities?


From across the country and around the world, our students come together in Kansas City to study business, medicine, theatre and more than 100 other academic areas. Roos become leaders in their fields and give back to their communities.

>Meet more UMKC students

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