Shepherd reflects back on how his passion for creating music began, “I started performing when I was in middle school, I just wanted to try. They held an assembly about joining chorus, band or orchestra, so I tried chorus. I really enjoyed it and found out that I had a talent.”
Shepherd was in chorus until high school and then decided to pursue creating his own music after a friend encouraged him to challenge himself.
“Creating music is fun for me. I do it because I love it, and as for dancing, I feel like I have been doing that forever. My brother and I have never kept up going to dance classes because we were always the only guys, so it was uncomfortable, but I continued to learn dance through watching videos,” shares Shepherd.
Shepherd, whose stage name is JShep, gets his inspiration from Chris Brown, Usher, Tory Lanez and T-Pain. “All of those guys, when they take the stage, they don’t just stand up there and do their music. They perform and interact with the crowd. T-Pain, was actually my favorite concert when he came to Syracuse,” remarks Shepherd.
Shepherd is a marketing management major at Syracuse University’s Martin J. Whitman School of Management from Franklin, Massachusetts. He wrote his letter of intent regarding a performance he organized and detailed why he wanted to be a business major. He shares, “That essay is what got me into the Whitman School, if I wasn’t passionate about what I’m talented in, I wouldn’t be at Syracuse University.”
Shepherd explains why he chose his major, “I could tie marketing towards performing by working on a marketing team within the music or dancing industry.”
On-campus, Shepherd has continued to utilize his musical skills. He joined the Black Reign step team as a first-year student. Shepherd says, “I’m going to be the vice president of external affairs for the team. I will handle the emails and schedule performances. My experiences at the Whitman School definitely will help me in that role.” He is also a member of the Outlaws Dance Troupe, which he began during his sophomore year. Shepherd describes both of those dance teams as families to him.
Shepherd also gained some stardom for his role in the Walt the Crane music video, which currently has over 2,000 views on YouTube. He commented, “My friend Oladeji Awe ’20 (VPA) texted me and said he had a great idea. He was thinking about making a song about Walt the Crane. He said, ‘Listen, everyone is in love with it. It has an Instagram account and people take photos with it. It would be a huge opportunity to gain more exposure’.”
Awe (VPA) and Shepherd teamed up with Clayon Horwitz ’21, a student at the College of Visual and Performing Arts, to help them film and produce the music video.
“We planned to film on a game day, so people were showing school spirit. Harry’s Bar played our song and the video even got reposted on the Walt the Crane Instagram. People gave it a lot of attention. It was mostly Oladeji’s idea, but it was cool to be part of,” Shepherd shares.
Shepherd met Oladeji through his role model at Syracuse University, Anthony Obas ’20. Obas was also a marketing major and connected with Shepherd through ties to the WellsLink Leadership Program. Obas got Shepherd into contact with Oladeji after Shepherd performed for Mixtape Magazine and joined a group chat that students who are interested in recording music are part of.
It was not always a smooth ride for Shepherd. During his sophomore year, his grades began to fall. “I took off dancing during half of my sophomore year. It was tough because the step team showcase was in the spring and we were performing the Lion King. I was the only guy, so I was going to be the lead role of Simba, but I had to give it up and take time off. It was the worst decision I made since coming to campus. Instead of dancing, I was just sitting around, lost motivation and gained weight. I thought, ‘Now what? What am I doing this for?’ My grades actually went down that semester off.”
However, Shepherd returned to Syracuse University fall ‘19 with more determination. Self-discipline was also critical to Shepherd’s success. While at school, he has dance practice six nights a week and spends two to three hours at each practice.
“It was pretty tough at first to balance it all. But then I started learning time management and making more sacrifices,” he says.
Shepherd admits that to be a successful student and performer he had to give up time playing basketball and hanging out with friends on some days.
Shepherd’s goal is to open for a concert in the Schine Student Center before graduating. He explains, “I am working to make sure that I’m ready to be a good performer. Every day I watch dance videos. No matter how much exposure I get, I need to work on myself even more. I exercise every day, practice dancing every day and I’m writing lyrics every day. I’m making sure that I stay disciplined so that when it is time to come back to campus, I’ll be ready to do it all.”
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