Amazon has nothing on Cameron Hewes ’15. The giant online retailer sells almost anything you can think of, but don’t expect to find specialized sheet music for the clarinet. For that, musicians can now turn to CAMco—the Crane School of Music alumnus’s new business that offers hundreds of options for purchasing sheet music composed specifically for the clarinet family of instruments.
“If you want to buy a rice cooker, you can find a whole doctoral thesis about the Instant Pot vs. the Zojirushi, so why can’t we have that level of specificity about this particular niche product? That’s what I wanted to provide,” Hewes said about his new business CAMco.
His new website allows musicians to search for sheet music as they would search for songs on iTunes. “I wanted to create a space where you could have some of those conveniences. If you want something jazzy, something of a certain length, something for a beginner or for a more advanced musician, you can search by those specific parameters—that’s not something that you’re going to find anywhere else, and it’s not something you’re going to find on Amazon,” Hewes explained.
CAMco was two years in the making. Hewes spent countless hours building his own catalog of information, fostering relationships with publishers and implementing search optimization for the website. He also handled the marketing campaigns, branding and logo design, while working with a web designer to build the site. “I’ve gone through the classical (clarinet) training, so I kind of know what people want. That’s not the big deal. The big deal is taking the time to get all of the sheet music. It’s hard to manage all of these business relationships with some overseas companies,” Hewes said.
His vast knowledge of clarinet repertoire stems from his work with Dr. Julianne Kirk Doyle, a clarinet professor at The Crane School of Music. When Hewes was still in high school and looking for the best music program available, he chose Crane because of her. “Before even applying, I was at somewhat of a crossroads in terms of struggling with some tension body issues regarding my performance anxiety and she was able to unlock and lift me out of that—in addition to just being a total consummate artist and exquisite educator herself,” Hewes said. “You can just see it in everything that she does. She’s just an amazing person, artist and teacher. I’m eternally grateful for what she has provided to me.”
In the fall of 2019, Hewes made the trip back to campus for The Crane School of Music’s Clarinet Summit, marking the official launch of his business. His website was still under construction at the time, but he set up shop with other vendors in one of the rehearsal rooms, selling sheet music directly to students and faculty in attendance. He made the long trip from Illinois with his girlfriend, Rebecca Scholldorf ’15, another clarinetist at Crane whom he met as an undergraduate. “She’s a wonderful person. Although we’re very much into our work and working hard, it’s just a wonderful connection. We just meshed,” he said.
Their senior year, they took center stage at Hosmer Hall as soloists with an entire clarinet section behind them. “It almost sounded like a pipe organ when you have 80 clarinets going at once. It was a lot of fun.” The concert was the first of what turned into an annual Halloween performance at Hosmer. “I came on first as a pirate, shaking a box of saltine crackers, and she was attracted by the crackers, because she was Polly the Parrot,” he laughed. “We’ve had some wonderful opportunities to come together on stage.”
In addition to his degree in clarinet performance, Hewes was also busy pursuing a second degree in studio art. He fell in love with traditional printmaking methods because of Joseph Hildreth, someone Hewes describes as being very down-to-earth and having a “wealth of knowledge.”
“Kirk Doyle and Hildreth knew the value of introspection, hard work and just hunkering down and exploring the stuff you care about on a very deep level. I’m very appreciative of those two people in particular,” he said.
When Hewes graduated from SUNY Potsdam, he received a full scholarship to complete a Master of Music degree in clarinet performance at the Conservatory at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla. Just like with Kirk Doyle, he found tremendous support from Jon Manasse, a distinguished artist in residence at the school. “I had the chance to study with a dream teacher.”
He excelled, won some clarinet competitions and then he stumbled upon the idea for CAMco. He met Eric Van der Veer Varner, a professor and department chair of woodwinds at the conservatory. Varner, who sadly passed in the fall of 2019, not only served on the faculty at the university, but also ran his own side business, selling sheet music for double reed instruments (the bassoon and oboe families). “Come to find out, he does this completely other thing besides teaching, that I didn’t even know really existed: selling sheet music online. I worked for him for one summer, and I realized, ‘My instrument needs something like this too.’ So that’s how my direction changed,” Hewes said.
His new direction was only reinforced after winning first place in a business competition through Lynn University’s College of Business and Management. After never taking a business class in his life, he was able to outperform every other student in the business school. His success at SUNY Potsdam and then in graduate school helped pave the way to his new career. CAMco is now up and running—providing musicians, students and teachers around the world with a dynamic resource for purchasing sheet music for the clarinet family.
For more information about The Crane School of Music, visit: https://www.potsdam.edu/academics/crane-school-music
Article and photos by Jason Hunter