Tragedy to Triumph: Trumpeter Cameron Handel’s Story

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Tragedy to Triumph: Trumpeter Cameron Handel’s Story

CHARLESTON, SC – Local trumpeter Cameron Handel is a beloved member of the Charleston Jazz Orchestra (CJO). Charleston Jazz’s Marketing & Communications Director Lacy Miller had the opportunity to interview Cameron in the Charleston Music Hall green room between CJO performances recently. Cameron shared a deeply personal story of the day she suffered a traumatic injury that she thought might be the end of her musical career. Her resilience and persistence are an inspiration to us all. We hope you enjoy the video interview and transcript of her story below.



Cameron, you just played a big show.

Yes, and it was so fun, amazing with Manny “Showstopper” Houston. That’s it was great, incredible.

There’s not a lot of female trumpet players in the world, so how did you become inspired to play the trumpet?

Well, I was just a tag-along little sister, honestly. My big brother played trumpet, and it was time for me to do mouthpiece testing. I had played around on his, and I knew it could make a sound. So, I went to the mouthpiece testing night and just did really well. And so, the band director wanted me on trumpet, and I wanted to be like my big brother. I didn’t realize at the time that girls don’t bu—drop it, you know. And my parents didn’t discourage it, and once I was in the section, I was like, “Oh,” but it wasn’t a big deal. So, my big brother got me into the trumpet, and then I just kind of had a knack for it and kept going through high school and college and after. And here we are.

That’s amazing. That’s amazing. So, you have a musical family. So, it sounds like your brother was musical. Tell me more about the musicians in your family.

My brother, he was—he stopped around 10th grade and pursued other things. My mom did a little piano. My dad’s not musical; he’s a marine biologist. But my family now, with my husband and my girls, my husband’s a musician. I met him in a Broadway show called Blast that I joined after I went to the University of Georgia. And he’s a percussionist, and Blast is like what Riverdance did for Irish dancing on the stage. Blast is for marching band on the stage, so it’s a big theatrical production. I met Jeff there, and ended up getting married, and he came down here, and we have two little girls. We’ve just been—we just started singing to them. I remember with the ukulele; that was my hobby. The girls just started singing along, and during the lockdown, we started trying not to go crazy, and we’re like, “Let’s just film some music videos of all the songs that we know.” So, we kept hearing “two weeks to slow the spread,” so we’re like, “We’ve got two weeks; let’s put out some videos.” So, we put out all our stuff, and it’s like the Sound of Music when I look at your page. It’s your girls, you, and your husband, and it’s really magical. We share that fun.

It is. It’s fun, and some of the videos went viral. We got invited to play the Strawberry Festival at Boon Hall. We’ve played my festival in Vermont. This past summer, we played in Washington, DC. So, it’s the Handel family band, and the girls are the stars. We just sit back and let them do their thing. We’ve been really blessed to pass on the musical experience to our girls.

I love that because it’s really neat to see. You’re in the CJO, and you’ve been playing with them for a while, right?

Yes, I’ve been with them since the first season. I took a few years off, traveling with Michael Bolton, and Charlton let me kind of come and go, which was really nice. But yeah, it’s Season 16. It’s incredible.

We missed you for a little while in the CJO. I know our fans were asking, “Where’s Cameron?” You had to rehabilitate from an accident. Tell us a little bit about that.

Yes, we had an unfortunate accident on New Year’s Eve of ’21. Our family has a golf cart, and we go across to the shopping center. We had taken a trip we had taken hundreds of times to get fireworks. It was that afternoon, and the light turned green. I remember Jeff hesitating, and I remember having the thought, “Are you going to go or what?” But he looked, made sure nobody was coming, and we got going. We got to the other side of the intersection when I saw to my right a white work van barreling at us at 50 miles an hour. It hit the front of the cart, thank God, instead of, you know, what if we had been going one second faster or one second slower? So, it hit the front of the cart; my husband and my girls were buckled, thank God. It spun out and flipped over, but I was thrown across the intersection and just tumbled. I had blunt facial trauma, a brain injury, broken bones, and punctured lungs. I had to take about 10 months off the horn and two years for the brain injury. I’m still dealing with it, but thank God, every day that I’m still playing. My teeth were chipped and cracked, and I’m back.

So glad you’re back, and we’re so blessed that you’re okay. Your story, I wanted to mention because so many musicians hit a bump in the road like that and get discouraged, but you were going to get that trumpet and get back to what you love. I’m inspired by that, and I’ve just watched how you handled that with such grace.

Thank you. What are your dreams? What would you like to do in music that you haven’t done?

You know, my dream is to get paid to go play in music festivals and to show my girls the world. You know, I saw the world with Michael Bolton; we went to 47 countries. This is what it’s all about, just traveling. So, if I could get paid to go play with Saltwater Brass, take the girls with us, and do some Handel Family Band in between, you know, that’s my dream. It’s a pretty simple dream, but just travel on somebody else’s dime. That’s the goal.

That’s amazing. And people see you sometimes in Charleston, walking down the street, basically throwing a musical party in the street. Tell us what that is when people see you in the middle of the road with your trumpet.

That’s our newest project, a second-line parade band. With the wedding industry here, the demand for a New Orleans-style street parade leading the wedding party and guests from the ceremony to the reception has exploded. I have so much fun doing it, and people come out of their balconies, and the brides feel special. Everybody’s coming out and cheering them on, and you get to be a part of their special day. It’s a party in the street, and it’s fun.

Well, Cameron, we’re so glad to have you in the Charleston Jazz Orchestra. You’re just a ray of sunshine in the Orchestra. Thanks for coming in.

Of course, thanks for having me. [Music]


“I saw the world with Michael Bolton; we went to 47 countries. This is what it’s all about, just traveling”
-Cameron Handel


Learn more about Cameron: musicbycameron.com

See Cameron live with the Charleston Jazz Orchestra: charlestonjazz.com/orchestra




Start typing and press Enter to search

Charleston Jazz Academy students with instrumentsStachia Simmons performing at Charleston Jazz