Aaron Watson, country music singer, will be honored on April 26 as ACU’s Young Alumnus of the Year.
Samantha Adkins, senior alumni relations officer, said the Alumni Advisory Board selected Watson out of the group of finalists because he showed that people can succeed in their career while still balancing a healthy family life.
“He’s doing something that’s pretty visible and he’s doing it in a Christian way,” Adkins said.
Watson travels quite a bit, but Adkins said he is very active in his Abilene congregation and considers his family’s needs when choosing to go on the road.
Watson said his music career started his junior year at ACU. In the 10 years since his graduation, he has released 10 records and played over 1,500 shows, including some festivals with audiences of over 40,000 people.
“I think ACU itself gives students an edge on having success,” Watson said. “Colossians 3:23 says that whatever you do, work at it with all your heart as if working for the Lord. I think ACU is one of the few places where you can get that education and that’s what makes it special.”
Determining factors in Watson’s future were an
early end to his baseball career and enrollment in guitar lessons with Dan Mitchell, music teacher at ACU. He said Mitchell never doubted him and never chuckled at the fact that he came in with little experience and had a desire to play professionally.
Instead, he told Watson he was ready to work hard to get Watson where he needed to be.
“He became one of my heroes,” Watson said. “ACU has a diamond with Mitchell.”
Watson said he and his band played shows in every possible venue that was available to them, sometimes driving as far as Houston to play shows on Thursday nights after class got out. He recalled times when he would return to his University Park apartment at 6 or 7 o’ clock in the morning and change clothes and go to class to take a test running on no sleep.
“It was a crazy experience, but not half as crazy as now,” Watson said. “I have a full tour schedule and I get to come home to three kids.”
Watson reflected back on his college days when he would sell CDs out of his backpack on campus and spend class time writing lyrics in his class notes while living and practicing with his band in an empty building next to a Shell gas station.
“It’s tough for a college guy to get a date when he lives at a gas station and drives a van,” Watson said. “I’ve had some definite challenges, but all of the struggles I’ve experienced have refined me in so many ways.”
Watson said that 10 years ago he was just like any 20-year-old young man who was chasing after dreams of being a rock star and pursuing fortune, fame and girls. Yet, somewhere along the way, he realized that God had blessed him with a platform to glorify God in front of the masses and he realized exactly what his calling in life was.
“The music industry is a pretty nasty business and I really try to keep myself separate from the entire industry; you can’t serve both money and God and that’s the truth. Somewhere along the way I had to make the decision about what I was going to stand for and what I was going to be remembered for,” Watson said. “Our society is often cramming their beliefs down our throats; don’t be afraid to return the favor, but in a gentle and loving way.”
Watson said conversations with professors helped him realize his career was an opportunity to be a witness in some of the darkest places in this country. Support from his ACU professors made a big impact during that crucial time in his life when he was second-guessing his occupation.
“God used a lot of people in the ACU circle to help develop my skills musically and help encourage me and push me toward my goals as a singer/songwriter,” Watson said.
Watson will be recognized on April 26 at 6 p.m. in the Hunter Welcome Center. Tickets are available for $20 and can be purchased by contacting the Alumni Association office at 674-2622.