The Pursuit of Passion
She is a dedicated teacher, an accomplished mezzo-soprano
soloist, and an award-winning composer, but Northern Arizona University professor
Judith Cloud is also proud of another role she plays—that of mentor to her
students. For Cloud, mentorship means demonstrating the importance of
perseverance and dedication to one’s craft through her own professional
experience. A life in music isn't easy, she says, but passion pays off.
"You do it because you love it and somebody will
recognize that," says Cloud. "It can take many years of hard work to
achieve rewards and recognition." Cloud knows this from experience. She is
a prolific composer and the 2009 recipient of the Sorel Medallion in Choral
Composition, which was awarded at Carnegie Hall in New York City. Her work,
entitled Anacreontics, took first place over
more than a hundred submissions from female composers all over the world.
The first-place prize was the result of not only Cloud's
talent, but her perseverance. It was the second year that her submission earned
recognition in the top three. "You talk about being a mentor to your
students—the year I won third, I brought back so much understanding for them in
terms of when you don't win," she says. "I said to them, 'If you're
good, you just keep at it.'" When Cloud came back the following year with
first place, she said, ”See? I told you!”
Cloud joined the university's music department in 1989.
When she drove north from Phoenix during her first visit to campus, “my eyes just
got bigger and bigger—I had no idea that Arizona had green forests and
mountains. I literally fell in love and I've been here ever since." While
the landscape was a draw, Cloud says her fondness for her students, and a
collaborative environment that fosters faculty creativity, has inspired her to
stay. Unlike many other university music programs, Cloud and most of her
colleagues continue to have active performance careers, showing students how
they, too, can have fulfilling careers as performers and educators.
Cloud is also the coordinator and an enthusiastic
advocate of the vocal studies program. Vocal students have access to five
full-time voice faculty who are actively performing, a highly regarded choral
education program, and an opera program that presents fully staged performances
each semester. The goal, she says, is to help students succeed—both at the
university and beyond.
"We're building a strong foundation through teaching
and performance experiences," says Cloud. "And we continue to raise
the bar. Students will be able to make informed decisions about choosing their
career paths, because of their well-rounded, hands-on educational
Cloud's work as a composer is also bringing a spotlight
to Flagstaff itself. Through her professional contacts, Cloud persuaded the
International Alliance for Women in Music to hold its 2011 Congress at Northern
Arizona University, which culminated with a concert performed by the Flagstaff
Symphony Orchestra. The previous congress was held in Beijing, China. The event
brought more than 200 female musicians to northern Arizona.
Cloud recently faced her toughest challenge when she was
diagnosed with breast cancer. She persevered through chemotherapy and
radiation, and the hair loss that treatment caused. “But now I’m back, stronger
than ever, and I feel great!”
And she's a good example for her students, too.