NJIT's Student Newspaper

The Vector

NJIT's Student Newspaper

The Vector

NJIT's Student Newspaper

The Vector

Black Mozart Stimulates NJIT


“When you find your passion, the best of you is not demanded by the world…
but by the beating of your heart.” These words boomed loudly throughout the Jim
Wise Theater on Wednesday January 29 as R&B singer, composer, and producer
Ryan Leslie spoke words of unfailing wisdom.

Before he made his stage appearance, Elizabeth from the National Society of
Black Engineers (NSBE) gave a brief introduction to Leslie through a documentary
retelling his legendary rise to fame. The film consisted of clips from various music
videos he created, behind the scenes recording sessions, and a few precious
moments caught on camera of Leslie hanging out and having a few laughs with his

The documentary gave insightful taste of how Ryan Leslie has maintained a
down-to-earth identity, differentiating himself in many ways from the other musical
artists of the world.

The audience was given a special treat – not only the opportunity to see Ryan Leslie
in person, but also the chance to take the mic and personally ask him about

A rowdy laugh emanated from the crowd when the first student asked Leslie why he
had such a large focus on the “female counterpart” in his music videos. Next,
another student inquired why Leslie had strayed from using traditional instruments
to use more high-tech, digital devices. Without missing a beat, he explained how he
wanted to portray a certain image to the world that said, “I’m not your average
musician; I can play everything!” Besides, having a familiarity with several diverse
instrumental tools helps Leslie manage his time while working a project to give it a
“certain level of gravity.”

Towards the end of the event, a faculty member from NJIT’s Equal Opportunity
Program (EOP) pressed for Leslie to elaborate on his story of having parents who
encouraged his passions throughout his life. Leslie says that, since both of his
parents loved music, he was born out of love and music, so there is be no doubt
that he, too, would love music.

But as his academic career progressed, he asked himself, “What would be that
career pathway to make my parents happy?” After scoring a 1210 on his SATs in
eighth grade, he decided that his parents would be beaming with pride to have a
son who became a brain surgeon. So at 14 years old, Leslie applied to Yale,
Stanford, and Harvard universities. Stanford and Harvard were elated to accept him
into their medical programs. As the first student –EVER—from his high school to be
accepted into Harvard, he was on his way!

“Put your mind to whatever you’re passionate about,” he said. Ryan Leslie was not
passionate about becoming a brain surgeon; he loved making music much, much

After a nerve-wracking phone call home to inform his father that he was no longer
pursuing a career in the medical field and had already switched majors, Ryan Leslie
was on his way, once again, but his compass pointed towards a very different route
this time.

Looking at his profound and prosperous career now, it is a grand twist to think that
he started at rock bottom. After graduating from Harvard, Leslie had no money, no
job, and nowhere to live. So he took the initiative to succeed in life by working more
rigorously than any graduate student could imagine. With strong faith, intellect, and
determination, Ryan Leslie worked his way to the glorious top from utter rock

Before Leslie departed from stage, he gave the audience an exclusive chance to
hear his hands dance across an electronic keyboard and fill the theater with a
melodious harmony.

Ryan Leslie left the NJIT community with an important and very inspiring message,
“Always be humble and accessible because you never know where a conversation
might lead you.” Stay true to your hearts, NJIT!

Holly Junice

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