Posted May 10, 2013

Temple Made: Julian Terrell Otis

Name: Julian Terrell Otis

Year: Senior

School: Boyer College of Music and Dance

Major: Vocal performance

Home town: Chicago, Ill.

Why I chose Temple: "I already knew the campus well when it came time to apply for college. I had a relationship with Temple dating back to 7th and 8th grade through my participation in the Physicians Scientists Training Program. The program taught biology, chemistry and physics to 7th and 8th graders [at Main Campus], and in 9th and 10th grade we had a chance to do research at the Health Sciences Center. But Temple was on the back burner. I was looking for a liberal arts college. When I was trying to figure out where to go, I was thinking: 'How am I going to pay for this?' One of my best friends — Lawrence Ogunkua, who graduated from Temple last year — said: 'This is a no brainer, you should come to Philadelphia and be with me at Temple.' I knew there would be a support system here. And from my previous experience here, I knew I would be comfortable. Yes, I was looking for a smaller school, but I found that each of the schools and colleges at Temple has its own community. I found my own small community at Boyer. I can connect with my professors like you can at any liberal arts college."

Transformative moment: "When I came to Temple, I wanted to be a physician-scientist. That was a passion for me. But I began to realize that science might not be what I was called to do. My freshman year, I tried lots of things. My roommate, who was a music major, inspired me to take a voice for non-majors class. The class lit a spark. It was inspiring. It just seemed right. So in my sophomore year, I changed my major to music. I felt like this was the time in my life to explore that side of myself to the fullest. And I've had a blast ever since.

"I'm a tenor. I sing classically. But I grew up in the inner city of Chicago, so I'm very familiar with R&B and gospel styles as well. I've been singing since I was six years old. I remember an elder in the church pushing me forward and saying, 'That boy can sing.' Singing has always been part of my life. Being in front of a crowd. Making someone feel something. Connecting with people through music and words. It has been a comfort for me during bad times.

"I've always been a good student, but learning how to be a musician is so different. It's a process. It doesn't come overnight. You have to retrain your body and your muscles. It takes time. That was the hardest thing to learn. There's no 100 percent on the test when you finish singing your aria, because there's always something you can do better. It's a humbling art.

"The other day, my teacher brought me into his office and asked, 'Julian, could you sing the national anthem for me?' A week later I received an email from the chair of the department informing me that I was the singer for the Commencement ceremony this year. I'm so excited to have an opportunity to sing in front of thousands of my peers in the Liacouras Center. Nerves? Nerves are real. I'll be nervous before a performance — it's the anticipation of something to come. But when I'm on stage, I feel so at home. There is a comfort I feel when I'm expressing myself to other people. I'm able to relax in that moment and just be who I am. My aunt always tells me, 'Let your light shine.' I remember her words and go for it. And I enjoy it every time."