Freshman and vocal performance major Fandy Cendana Tjen, 18, remembers learning his first song when he was only 2 years old, a karaoke track that he sung in Mandarin. Originally from Indonesia, Fandy came to the U.S. about 7 years ago finding a home in the "city of brotherly love," Philadelphia.
Last year, he decided to take a leap of faith and enrolled at Columbia College to pursue his passion of singing and entertaining. And since then, he's taken the city by storm. He's participated in several of the school's productions and is a member of several groups, including the Black Student Union.
"I would love to be the first Asian on the cover of Ebony or Essence, and win BET's and all those awards!" he exclaims.
Citing artists like Smokie Norful, Beyonce, Kirk Franklin and Jonathan McReynolds as inspiration--Fandy's voice glides over notes effortlessly and with the soul of a man way beyond his years.
Just last year, Fandy was accepted into the Grammy Camp in New York for vocal performance. There, he got the chance to work with Leslie Drayton, an original member of Earth Wind & Fire and musical director for Marvin Gaye, and Greg "Stryke" Chin, a man he now calls his mentor.
"The experience was definitely intimidating. All I did was sing in church, school, my room and my favorite place--the shower," he says. "Somehow I was accepted into the program and received full aid for all of the expenses! I didn't have to pay a single penny and I'm totally blessed for that."
It was also during that time that Fandy got the chance to perform at the Best Buy Theater, "one of the best venues in Times Square" he says.
For the future, Fandy is only hoping for bigger and better. In addition to gracing the covers of magazines and winning awards, he would also like to tour the world, create his own record label and give back to the neighborhoods of south Philly and Indonesia to "show that dreams are real and all things are possible."
Fandy's compassionate and bubbly nature draws him a lot of attention and he's sure to go far in this profession. At the same time, he keeps a level head and a very close and personal relationship with God.
"The things that I have found the most difficult would have to be emotionally--accepting that this major is a risk. Everything that I do may risk my future in the industry. But personally, I just want to become a better person and walk this path with God. Just pursue this dream and live life fully."