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Love and Freedom

She’s a soulful singer on the rise

Two years into her Swarthmore career, Cecily Bumbray ’12 had a revelation. Then, she called her mother, Sherry Bellamy ’74.

“I told her that I didn’t want to go into development or be a diplomat,” she says. “I wanted to make music.”

Soon after, boxes began arriving.

“My mom started sending me—on top of all my Swarthmore reading—music business books,” she laughs.

It paid off: Bumbray released her debut album, Songs of Love and Freedom, in May and recently wrapped up a year as an artist-in-residence at Strathmore, a nonprofit arts center in North Bethesda, Md. Strathmore selects six young musicians for the program, which offers industry seminars on everything from giving a good interview to working with a producer.

Bumbray’s music career started early.

“I recently found this green notebook from when I was 5,” she says. “In big, scribbly letters, I had written little songs and poetry.”

The performance part took longer.

“In eighth grade, I finally sang in front of people and didn’t hyperventilate,” she says. “I realized, OK, I can keep doing this.”

At Swarthmore, while Bumbray worked toward her degree in black studies and political science, she also took voice lessons and performed in the Swarthmore Chorus, two a cappella groups, and the Gospel Choir.

She even flew out to Los Angeles one spring break to record in a studio and “throw myself into that world.”

It was a steep learning curve, but she approached it with the same curiosity and drive she applied to her coursework.

“I graduated from Swarthmore with a degree that I was super proud of—I felt like I knew a lot about the world,” reflects Bumbray. “And then I dove into this new career path that I didn’t know anything about. I read a lot of books; I took an online songwriting course; I studied music theory. The music business is very complicated, but I learn more every day.”

Her recent residency was a continuation of that learning process. In May alone, Bumbray gave three concerts, including one to celebrate Songs of Love and Freedom.

“I’ve worked on Songs for years,” she says. “It’s about finding a place of self-acceptance, self-love, and freedom—whatever that means for you.”

It’s a message she believes in so deeply that it became the theme for a Strathmore workshop Bumbray led.

Designed for nonsingers and singers alike, “Singing for Healing” taught participants how to use breathing, meditation, and vocalizing to release worry, judgment, and stress. She’ll offer it again one day,  but her focus now is on touring and promoting her album.

Out in the world doing what she loves, Bumbray is grateful for all the support she’s received—especially from her mother.

“She’s a person who, if she says she’s going to do something, she does it,” says Bumbray. “I am really blessed to have her support and example.”