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Learn more about CAM Ambassador Elysia Smith with this Q & A!

What brought you to CU Denver, and specifically the College of Arts and Media?

I knew I wanted to study music, but not necessarily focus on performance. I looked at University of Denver, University of Northern Colorado, and University of Colorado Denver. Of the three universities, CU Denver gave me the most flexibility to study both Music Business and Recording Arts while still allowing me to study vocal performance on the audition track.

What concentration do you find yourself leaning towards the most? Why? When did you get started?

My background is in classical music. The first “concert” I went to was an opera performance of The Magic Flute by Mozart. I studied classical piano from the age of 7 and continued my musical studies taking voice. About midway through high school I realized that I wanted to study music, but I didn’t necessarily want to do performance as my sole focus. I knew I had other talents and passions besides performance, so I wanted to have the flexibility to study music in a variety of ways. Therefore I looked for a Music Business and Recording Arts program so I could study as much variety as possible. I think at the present, based on my current job and skills, I’ve been leaning more towards my Music Business—I’ve even been considering pursing a law degree—however we’ll regroup in a year.

Why did you want to become part of the CAM Ambassadors group? What do you think it will do for you and the school?

I think becoming more connected to CAM by participating in the CAM Ambassadors group—as well as having the wonderful opportunity to attend SXSW—will not only help me grow professionally and personally, but will create a stronger connection to my CU Denver campus. I hope to attend panels that will relay information on the future of the creative industries—copyright law, digital technology, issues the future generation needs to amend—as well as building connections with industry professionals and my colleagues. I think this powerful outside the classroom learning opportunity will not only spark a huge development point for us professionally, but it will bring back intel to CAM about future classes, technologies, and potential pitfalls for the program. I see this trip as fulfilling my personal growth goals, as well as furthering and giving opportunity for CAM’s mission to continue fruition by learning how elevate the Denver Music scene, innovating the CAM program, and coming up with new creative technologies and styles of teaching.

What is your favorite part of being in the CAM program?

I love how many things the program does, and how open minded it is to do new things. When deciding on colleges, I turned down scholarships because of how strong this program is. Other Universities simply did not beat the Music Business program, which was recently ranked in the Top 10 in the Nation by Billboard, and because they offered the flexibility in allowing me to study what I wanted—music business, recording arts, and voice. The CAM program allows me to research what is on the cusp of coming to fruition in the music and creative industries—and to work with talented faculty, staff, and colleagues on creative the future generation of creatives and the creative industry. Additionally I love seeing what the other divisions of the college come out with, while I mostly seem MEIS (Music and Entertainment Industry Studies) work, it is also amazing to see the work of digital design, visual arts, animation, and tv/film/production students.

What helps you get inspired?

I’m inspired by stories. I love hearing random stories on public transportation, talking to my Lyft/Uber driver, or hearing the stories of individuals without homes. I think sometimes when you go into a conversation knowing you will probably never see that person again, there is a sense of comfort in the anonymous, and people are more willing to be vulnerable and share their story—not their pitch or façade—but their life story.

Do you have any rituals to get yourself motivated when you work?

I’m pretty motivated by deadlines and sometimes food. I work best when I enter a state of flow; or in brief psychological terms, extreme focus. Though I often forget to eat and such when I’m in a state of flow, I get a lot of whatever I’m doing done!

Who is your biggest inspiration?

Mariska Hargitay. She is most recognized as Olivia Benson from Law & Order: SVU however, she’s taken that character and created so much more by doing real good in the world. Her work in acting inspired her to found the Joyful Heart Foundation, an organization whose mission is to heal, education and empower survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse, and to shed light into the darkness surrounding these issues. She also created the No More campaign which combines a plethora of organizations to create a symbol and mission to end domestic violence and sexual assault. Since taking on a role of advocacy, she has spoken at the Supreme Court, worked with Vice President Biden on the “It’s On Us” campaign, and worked to end the rape kit backlog in this country, as well as growing The Joyful Heart Foundation help in the healing process for survivors. She is my biggest inspiration because she has taken her art in acting and used it as a catalyst for social change and awareness.

Where is the best place to see art, in your opinion?

I think the best art is in the everyday. I think some of the most powerful expressions of art are those that convey a piece of humanity that all of us feel and relate to—even if we don’t admit it. The best art will make me feel intense emotions of happiness, heartbreak, anger, loneliness, etc. and I think some of those emotions are best portrayed in the art of the everyday. I think artists have a unique way of capturing the art of humanity; they are able to put a mother’s grief over the death of her child or the happiness of a proposal and hope for a bright future into an art piece—whether that be film, theatre, music, dance, visual arts, etc. it speaks to people because it incites within them a sense of feeling heard, comradery, and beauty in humanity and the human spirit.

Do you think anything can be art? Explain

I think anything can be art with the right intent. Art is all about creating some sort of message or statement; art has purpose. It’s a chance for the artist to share something, whether it’s a bit of themselves, or something else, so long as that is portrayed through their work, I believe it can be defined as art.

Who is your favorite non-mainstream artist and why?

I really like music from other countries because it’s a chance to explore something universal from the lens of another culture. Artists I’ve enjoyed listening to are German pop artist Tim Bendzko, Finnish acappella group Club for Five, and Mexican pop artist Natalia Lafourcade.

Where is your hometown?

I grew up in Lakewood, Colorado, so I definitely consider that my hometown, however, I was born in Gejiu, China.

What is your favorite movie/film that you’ve ever seen?

I don’t think I can define an all time favorite movie, however, I thought The Danish Girl was fantastic. Though the story was only loosely based on the historical figure Lili Elbe, I thought the cinematography was beautiful and the acting was excellent, Alicia Vikander absolutely deserved the Oscar for her role as Gerda Wegner.

What is your favorite restaurant in Denver?

I really enjoy Domo on Osage St., it’s a wonderful traditional Japanese restaurant. It’s pretty expensive for dinner, but if you go for lunch, their prices are very reasonable (Qdoba reasonable), and you get a ton of food. Sit outside in their garden if it’s warm enough!

What is your favorite location to go to in Denver?

I’m a big fan of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. They have really great exhibits as well as evening programs for both adults and all ages. During one evening program, I had the opportunity to meet the cast of MythBusters!