Music is our best teacher
When Cami Thompson had finished her homework in junior high school, she would immediately bury herself under a pair of headphones and sing every Barbra Streisand lyric. “The control of her voice and the personal human experience that came through her words captured emotion so profoundly,” Thompson says. That kind of expression has guided Thompson throughout her career and every-day life.
The Reno-born singer, actress, songwriter, teacher and band leader has since spent about 30 years emulating her favorite artists, who include Barbra, Ella Fitzgerald and Bette Midler. She has also been influenced by numerous rock, pop, funk and R&B singers. “Young singers imitate artists who they like because it’s a way to come out of hiding. It shows my appreciation for them—it’s my history and my education,” she says.
With a childhood background in music stemming from her talented parents, Thompson began her classical training on the piano at age 6. While continuing her extensive music education, Thompson starred in many professional and community musicals, such as Annie Get Your Gun, Hair and The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, as well as some operatic leads. She has performed in various rock, R&B, soul and jazz bands around Reno-Tahoe, and she was one of the youngest members of the Nevada Opera Chorus while studying music and theater at the University of Nevada, Reno.
Thompson has recorded five albums, which showcase her four-plus-octave voice and brilliant musical proficiency. Her first CD, No More Blues (1993), is a collection of five originals and seven unique arrangements of classic jazz favorites and original torch, blues and American ballads. Thompson has remained loyal to classic elements in her writing but is quite successful in making her own unique voice present.
Her fourth album, By Request (2000), features 15 of her most-requested songs, which were written by renowned songwriters such as Cole Porter, the Gershwins, Duke Ellington and Harold Arlen. Most of the songs on the album were creatively arranged and shaped by Thompson, giving a fresh new sound to songs like “Bye Bye Blackbird,” “Over the Rainbow” and “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.”
Living in San Francisco since 1995, Thompson’s experiences gained through music are difficult to condense. She has been traveling all over the world opening for famous acts and earning very respectable positions performing, teaching and recording.
“My best way of dealing with my life is music,” Thompson says. “Writing teaches me to express myself in a creative way, instead of using other ‘weapons’ to deal with things. I was grateful that I was given a chance to study music, which gave me this amazing outlet for self-expression.”
One of her favorite experiences was performing at the glamorous 1930s-style supper club, The Coconut Grove, in San Francisco. There she performed with an eight-piece swing band for swanky crowds in an elegant setting. Currently, Thompson freelances at clubs (regularly at Harrah’s Reno Sapphire Lounge), cabarets, concerts, charity events, private parties, and festivals. She also has been teaching for 15 years, addressing each student’s unique style while strengthening the physicality of his or her voice. She believes that everyone is capable of producing music and claims that music is a self-revealing language. “I think that’s why we’re so drawn to music—it’s our best teacher.”
Freedom, humor, love and compassion—these are the things Thompson values most, and she hopes her creative endeavors can be a source of inspiration and encouragement to others. Her voice is beautifully diverse and moving, skillful and wise, and her outlook on life is so positive, you can’t help but admire her—that’s the inescapable aspect of her music: It makes your body move and makes you feel good.