This week, I interviewed Jamion Cotten, the 11-year-old singer and songwriter who is a member of the Austin Neighborhood Choir — an offshoot of the Chicago Children’s Choir. 

Jamion and his fellow choir members will present a virtual concert on Sept. 26, 8 p.m., called “Reverberation,” during which Jamion will perform “Just a Dream,” a song he wrote with Chicago Children’s Choir alum W. Mitchell Owens. 

Jamion spoke about how he first started singing, the challenges he’s experience, life in Austin and the meaning behind his original song. 

On the first song he sang

I started singing when I was a little boy. I sang I was born by the river by Sam Cooke [“A change is gonna come,” 1963]. My family would tell me to sing it all the time. 

I was in church and I was scared, so my father told me, ‘Don’t be scared.’ He was preaching for my grandfather, because they were out of town. So, I sang, ‘I was born by the river’ and I wasn’t scared, anymore. Since I’ve started singing, I just feel free and joyful. 

On his best experience this year 

We sang with Chance the Rapper [at NBA All Star Weekend] in February. We met Cardi B, Queen Latifah, Common, Kim Kardashian, Lil Yachty and DJ Khaled. We met the basketball players, too. We were crying , because it was the best experience. 

On life’s challenges 

I’ve been through some stuff I shouldn’t have been through, but me and my family have been through thick and thin. Trials and tribulations. One of my cousins got shot in 2012 and one got shot in 2017. They did not survive. It was depressing, because I was real close with both of them. 

On what he loves about living in Austin 

It’s fun. It has energy and there are loving, expressive people here. I love Austin. I love Pizza Hut and Home Run Inn. Those are some of my favorite places to go. 

On “Just a Dream”

The song is about when you think about bad dreams and someone wakes you up and you say, ‘Oh, it was just a dream.’ You should think about good things you want to dream. I want to see my dream and I don’t want it to be ruined. I have to work hard for it. 

My dream is to be a famous singer and songwriter and I think my dream is coming true. Every kid’s dream matters. So, keep following your dream and see wha your future brings. 

Everyone is invited to enjoy the “Reverberation” concert free of charge. Guests must register in advance via the Chicago Children’s Choir website:

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This is part of a series we’re launching called West Side People, designed to introduce our readers to their fellow West Siders. If you know of someone we should write about, email me at: And in the subject line write: West Side Lives.