- Sponsorship -

Musical prodigy, international performer, fourth-grader

Meet the Future: Cameron Renshaw

Creative, innovative, imaginative … Many of today’s students are all that and more in a vast variety of interest areas. This series features students with exceptional and unusual gifts.

Name: Cameron Renshaw

School: Marshall Elementary School

Jam: Playing cello

Byron Center What’s the story here?  When Cameron Renshaw was in kindergarten he kept asking his mom, Tina Renshaw, about the cello in her closet. Renshaw had left performing in her past, and wasn’t really interested in pulling the instrument out of storage where it had been for years.

Finally, one day on a whim, Renshaw agreed to play for the curious 5-year-old. She dusted the instrument off and began to play. “He was completely mesmerized from the first second,” she recalled.

Cameron Renshaw is an international cello performer and a fourth-grader (courtesy)

“I just thought it was really cool and I would really like to play that instrument,” said Cameron, now 9. He explained that the powerful tones of the cello sound like a human voice. “A couple months after, she started giving me lessons.”

Four years have passed since that pivotal moment with his mother, and Cameron has played cello at Carnegie Hall five times. He first took the stage there at age 6. (See a list of his accomplishments here.)  He’s played on The Ellen Degeneres Show and has won prestigious competitions, traveling to perform in Russia, Austria and Amsterdam. He plans to perform in the near future in Romania. He attends cello studio classes with music students at Grand Valley State University, where he takes lessons from Professor Pablo Mahave-Veglia.  

He is in fourth grade at Marshall Elementary School.

“I just love playing music. I love playing my heart out when I play, especially when I play for other people,” he said.

Is there a teacher or teachers who have had a big impact? Mom, of course, who Cameron describes as a serious teacher who pinpoints what he needs to work on. She rediscovered her own joy for cello and piano because of Cameron. Renshaw has a bachelor’s degree in cello performance from Indiana University, but changed her career path due to carpal tunnel syndrome and earned a master’s degree in design. Then, “I went full circle back to music.” She now teaches at the Academy of Music in Grand Rapids, and in her growing home studio. Cameron’s brother, Parker, 6, plays violin. 

“I left music years ago, so I didn’t think it was possible for me to get back into it. This little guy inspired me to get back into teaching and performance after a long hiatus,” Renshaw said.

It was apparent from the start that Cameron had a natural aptitude, she said. “I just noticed he has a really good ear for sound and tone and he has a natural musicality that I don’t feel like I have to teach him that much. I kind of help him bring it out, but he has an intrinsic sense of phrasing and musicality.”

As for his Marshall teachers, “I really love all my teachers!” His first grade teacher, Sierra Zylstra, played his cello videos for the class. “I really had a special connection with her. Even to this day sometimes I go back and say hi to her.”

Cameron also loves music teacher Megan Hoop. “I really like how she teaches music. First she starts out with basic things like how to sing, and then she moves on to more advanced things until eventually she starts teaching notes.”

Professor Pablo (Pablo Mahave-Veglia) also stands out to Cameron as influential. 

“I am guessing he is going to be really important in my life. Not only do I like the way he plays and how he teaches me, I also like that he has this stuffed animal, Goti  (a goat), and he has a really strong connection with his goat. He makes Goti not like when I make a mistake… he makes Goti  growl a lot,” Cameron said with a laugh.  “He once made Goti make ice cream for my little brother.”

Do you plan to pursue this professionally? “I would like to play the cello when I grow up, in chamber music groups.”

Who is your favorite composer? “Mozart… I really love his operas,” Cameron said. “It’s so nice to see so many things happening at the same time. Talk about multi-tasking.” 

For Marshall’s historical wax museum as a third-grader, Cameron dressed up as 18th-century composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and stayed as still as a statue until a visitor pressed a “button” in front of him. “I would give a speech and a couple important lines,” he explained.

Outside of music, what are your other hobbies/interests/little-known talent: Cameron has a condition called synesthetes, meaning he can “see” music as colors: the more intense the music, the brighter the color. “No matter what song I play or hear, I imagine a color for that.”

He also loves to read and build Legos with brother, Parker. “Sometimes we do Lego contests. Parker usually wins.” 

The biggest lesson you have learned from your involvement in music is… “Things change a lot. The conditions change. You’ve got to get used to it. You’ve got to be flexible.”

If you walked into your school building to theme music, what would the song be? “I would be thinking of a happy song. I really love school. I really love learning.”

- Sponsorship -
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is associate managing editor and reporter, covering Byron Center, Kentwood, Wyoming and Grand Rapids Community College. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013 and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio or email Erin.


Vaccine trial participant: ‘I really want to get back to normal’

Orchestra teacher and cellist Eric Hudson longs for the days when he can direct student musicians in concerts and tours and play in his own ensemble once again. To help speed that process along, he is participating in a COVID-19 vaccine trial...

Longtime agriscience teacher earns honorary FFA degree

After 24 years of teaching, John Schut believes incorporating fun and service into education is more engaging for students than taking notes in a classroom...

Stress, studies and the pandemic: a steep learning curve

In response to the social and emotional impacts brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, Rockford’s Developing Healthy Kids Campaign wants students and families to know they are not alone...

Health Department helps schools tackle challenges of instruction, during winter, in a pandemic

Working with the health department has been crucial in helping area school leaders understand the nature of COVID-19, the types of mitigation strategies that can be most effective and how to plan for the future...


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Related Articles

Class of 2021 has ‘test-optional’ choice when applying for college

Most schools in the state of Michigan have become SAT/ACT-optional for the Class of 2021 for admission purposes. There are, however, pros and cons for students...

Schools in nine districts announce closures as COVID cases spike

New temporary school building closures were announced by nine school districts in Kent ISD this week, as schools contend with a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases in Kent County and Michigan...

Fourth-grader’s pickle stand inspired by school marketplace

‘With my tiny fingers, I am good at stuffing them,’ said the young pickle peddler. ‘You can see how they are packed in, so you get more for the money’...
- Sponsorship -


Engagement: The Most Important Measure of Student Success

Polls find that students’ engagement in their school work declines as they ascend the grades. Tests that don’t relate to their real-life experiences exacerbate the problem...


Food ‘angels’ support hungry kids through pandemic

They work all across Kent County, guardian angels with peanut butter on their hands and crumbs on their shirtsleeves...
- Sponsorship -


Maranda Where You LiveWGVU