Alumni Spotlight: Chad Elliott

Graceland alum and professional musician Chad Elliott

Chad Elliott performing live.

Chad Elliott `96 comes from a long line of Graceland alumni: he is the fourth generation to graduate from the university. While attending Graceland, three of his grandparents worked on campus, which made being away at college really feel more like home. The fifth generation of family, Elliott’s son and niece, currently attend Graceland.

When Elliott was looking at his options for college, he visited campus and was overwhelmed by the warmth and friendliness he felt from the art professors he spoke with, and he feels fortunate he made the decision to attend Graceland.

Elliott says the most important thing he learned at Graceland is the strength of diversity, and that a healthy combination of openness, knowledge, hard work and faith will take you as far as your imagination will allow. “The farther I move on my path from Graceland, my gratitude for this understanding grows. I still hear the words and lectures from my professors and friends who taught me the power of diversity,” he recalls.

Elliott makes his living as a touring singer/songwriter, author and artist. He picked up his first guitar in his dorm room of Closson House where Mike Seagraves was the hall president. Many residents of the house would meet up in Seagrave’s room and sing their favorite songs late into the night. Everyone was welcome in their unforgettable song circles, beginners to more advanced players and even those who just wanted to sing along. These song circles set Elliott on a path he never knew existed for him. Now he tours the country performing his music and has shared the stage with some of the folk artists whose songs he sang back in the Graceland song circles. Interestingly, he currently tours with another Graceland alumnus and Closson brother, Tommy Lewis `10.

Chad ElliottAttending Graceland provided Elliott significant preparation for his future success. His art professors mentored him and spent personal time with him in one-on-one conversations about career choices. Elliott states many times he felt aimless, but the guidance he received helped shape his direction. One professor in particular pulled him aside and advised him that traveling is wonderful, he just needed to find a creative way to make a living at it. Elliott shares, “It was this personal attention to my needs that served me as a student, and I carry this creative problem solving with me. I took that advice to heart and have found a balance between my family, career and passion.”

Elliott has moved and traveled all over the country in the past 25 years. He's found Graceland alumni offering a warm welcome wherever he lands. Aside from being a songwriter, Elliott continues to pursue art in his ceramic studio and sculpts and paints everything from public art to private commissions. He also writes and illustrates children’s books of poetry and songs called Wilderman’s Books. Whatever avenue of art he is pursuing at the moment, it takes him all around the nation teaching workshops and camps for youth and adults.

For Elliott, the best part of having a diverse career and being self-employed is the ability to work from anywhere. He and his wife, Alyssa manage the business together and have recently moved back to Lamoni for a home-base filled with soulful connection and kind faces.

Check out some of Elliott’s music and children’s books at his websites and

“Imagining all of the ways Graceland University has shaped my path, I find myself attributing many of my personal achievements to folks I met on campus.” 

~Chad Elliott