Familiar Voice Putting Its Owner Through College
Student Can be Heard in Ads, on the Stage and Even in a Children's Video
Even if you’ve never met UT Dallas student Camille Cortinas, you’re probably familiar with her voice.
Her sunshiny vocals have been featured recently on several commercials in the D-FW market, including jingles for TXU Energy, the Texas Lottery, Hot Pockets and Dixie Cups. Cortinas receives a royalty every time a commercial featuring her voice is aired. That residual income, plus part-time work as a barista at Starbucks, helps Cortinas pay not only the rent but the tuition, too.
The talented singer-songwriter has also fronted a band called Fishing for Comets. Her band won the 2005 and 2006 Dallas Observer Music Award for Best Folk/Acoustic act and was nominated in 2007. She was nominated all three years for “Best Female Vocalist.”
Cortinas, a senior in the sociology program in the School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences, plans to be the first member of her family to graduate from college. She hopes to combine her degree with her love of music and children’s songs. She has offered a hint as to the direction her future career might take. She recently released a music video titled “Big Yellow Bowl” in which she performs a children’s song that she wrote while accompanied by some Jim Henson-style puppets that were hand-crafted and performed by her fiancé, Eric Neal, a locally renowned multi-instrumentalist.
“For the puppets, the idea is to gather resources around us, which is an eclectic range of talented musicians in Dallas, and write kid’s songs that aren’t irritating to parents,” she said. “We have a hip-hop artist, my brother has a surf band that does Dick Dale-type stuff, and we’ve got a bluegrass/country guy. The idea is to get them all involved, get their gears turning, and have them write a song that’s similar to “Big Yellow Bowl” but done in their way. We want to gather a portfolio of all these different kid’s songs and present them to production companies.”
In addition to making a name for herself, her budding music career has enabled her to do things she wants to do, such as enroll in college. She chose UT Dallas not only because she wanted to find a university that was conveniently located, but also because when she toured the campus, she was impressed by the aesthetics.
“I was struck by how beautiful the campus was the first time I went to visit,” she said. “The landscaping and flowers are amazing!”
Unfortunately, her packed schedule, which includes studies, a full-time job at Starbucks, her music performances, her songwriting, her performances with puppets and children’s songs and her commercial voice work, Cortinas doesn’t have much free time left for enjoying that beautiful scenery. “I’m not the typical college student,” she said. “At times I wish it was all I did, so I could focus 100 percent.”
Even so, she has been impressed by her UT Dallas experience. “I’m a people person, so I’ve really enjoyed the connections with others,” she said. “It could be as simple as the classmate next to me saying hello, and asking for help navigating Orion. Or the greater opportunities you might have by opening that line of communication.”
She recently had an opportunity to share her story with fellow UT Dallas students because of one of those connections. “Alex Ransom (managing editor of the UTD Mercury) sat next to me in my Research Methods course, and we got to talking about my commercial work,” she said. “I never thought it would have gone any further than that. But because she works for the student paper, and thought my story was interesting, it gave me the opportunity to share.”
Cortinas enjoys the atmosphere of her sociology classes, where she and her fellow students are given plenty of room for open discussion. “I enjoy the mature respectful art of bouncing opinions — political, religious points of view, etc.,” she said. “I also have seemed to gravitate toward the classmates who share more than one class with me. It’s a valuable connection to have.”
As far as she’s concerned, college is for everyone. “It really is,” she said. “I didn’t dive straight into college right after high school, and coming round a second time was a little intimidating at first. I was really reassured hearing similar stories with other students, and having the opportunity to meet and connect with students from a completely opposite path has opened doors for me too.”
Looking at the sunshiny, positive side of things not only informs her music but helps her to get through the day. “Do what makes you happy,” she said. “Do your job not as a chore or something brutal, but have it be something that enables you to do the things you want to do. Millions upon millions of people are trying to do the same thing we’re doing, which is to survive. Don’t try to knock anyone down in the process. I find that an easy way to approach things.”