Alum stars as Simba


©2014 Joan Marcus

Aaron Nelson, a 2012 business & entrepreneurship alumnus, will star as Simba in “The Lion King,” which is set to run Dec. 2–Jan. 17.

By Campus Reporter

Aaron Nelson, a 2012 business & entrepreneurship alumnus, knew he wanted to sing in “The Lion King” after seeing the show at age 12, according to Nelson’s former voice teacher, Andrew Schultze.

“His natural talent fit that role,” Schultze said. “[Nelson] was able to use his energy to make that dream come true.”

Nelson is set to star as Simba in “The Lion King,” which will run from Dec. 2 –Jan. 17 at the Cadillac Palace Theater. 

Schultze, an adjunct professor in the Music Department, said Nelson began taking lessons with him at the Fine Arts Building, 410 S. Michigan Ave., when he was a Columbia student.

“[Aaron] was extraordinarily focused,” Schultze said. “He knew exactly what his career goal was.”

Schultze said Nelson initially found it challenging to make some of the songs work for his voice, whether was because he had a difficult note to sing or because he was out of tune.

“Rather than feeling defeated, he knew it was his hard work and [applied] himself to [understanding] how he could coordinate these inner workings of his voice that would allow him to be able to sing these songs and really make this role his,” Schultze said.

Nelson said his studies in management taught him the importance of networking and the business of acting, which helped him achieve success.

“[Columbia] really allows you to figure out your path and still graduate with what you need,” Nelson said.

Nelson added that he saw “The Lion King” with his mother in 2005 when the show was on tour in Chicago and he was blown away by the performance.

Nelson said he first auditioned for “The Lion King” during his sophomore year at Columbia at an open call in 2008.

“I really didn’t know much about acting or the process,” Nelson said. “I went in with no resume and no headshot. The people [at the audition] told me I did a good job and to keep coming back.”

Nelson said his business degree allowed him to go into his new role with an understanding of contracts, adding that Columbia is the best college for students to figure out what they want to do.

“Going to a school and be[ing] encouraged and able to try so many different things and find your way and still get credit for it was amazing,” Nelson said.

James-Kimo Williams, an associate professor in the Music Department, said he remembers Nelson as being very animated and having a need to do his best in everything he did. Williams added that Nelson was able to adapt to multiple styles.

“He was like a sponge,” Williams said. “He soaked in the environment and the resources provided to him.”

Malik Camara, a professor in the Dance Department, said Nelson was a powerful dancer. Camara said he remembers Nelson’s spirit, his energy and how he stood out in the classroom.

“He was prepared for class every day,” Camara said. “He was open-minded and very eager to work.”

Camara said he told Nelson to take all of his gifts and make them work for him.

“Aaron was great,” Schultze said. “He was such a great student, such a fine example about what Columbia can accomplish.”