Mercer Artist: James Ruffin


Image: Vanessa Alva

Mercer Artist James Ruffin is a musician.

Vanessa Alva, Staff Writer

James Ruffin’s eyes lit up and his voice escalated as he spoke of his passion. The junior music major and business minor performs with the Mercer Singers and the Mercer University Opera.

“Music can be interpreted many ways, it can heal you and soothe your soul,” Ruffin said. “I have a gift, and I have a voice that can soothe my soul and soothe other people’s souls when I perform.”

Ruffin began singing after being forced to join his church’s choir when he was 5 years old. He didn’t know that he would find his true passion singing.

“I was kind of forced into choir, but at the same time, I started loving it. It was something that my heart just couldn’t stay away from. Music has been my passion ever since,” Ruffin said.

Ruffin was born in Washington D.C., but spent much of his life in Opelika, Alabama, a place with a lot of meaning to Ruffin.

“I made myself a better person there. I could never forget Opelika because it makes me who I am,” he said.

Some say singing is a gift, but Ruffin emphasized the importance of continuing to practice.

“Practice is always a good part of any gift or craft, because if you don’t practice your craft you will stay at the same level,” he said. “Every day is a day to get better at what you do.”

Ruffin said he tries to practice one or two hours a day every day of the week.

“Sometimes it gets hard because you also have classwork, but you make time for what’s important to you,” Ruffin said.

The Townsend School of Music plays a major role in Ruffin’s evolution as a singer where he’s a vocal performance major. Ruffin is taking classes on musical theory, music history, song literature and vocal diction.

“I’m learning the different sides of music and the breaking down of music. It’s actually harder than most people think, but it’s a very beautiful thing in itself. I love every day that I am in the music building just learning new things about music,” Ruffin said.

Although Ruffin’s in-class experience has helped him grow, his musical work outside of the classroom has also had a huge impact on him. Ruffin performed in Mercer University Opera’s “The Gondoliers” last year as the Duke of Plaza-Toro. This was Ruffin’s first opera performance.

“That has to be one of my favorite moments at Mercer, period. It broadened my horizons to a place I had never been before. It made me realize that I could do it,” he said.

R&B is his absolute  favorite music genre and he sees John Legend as an inspiration.

“I love soul and something that hits your heart every time. My favorite songs are ‘Ordinary People’ or ‘Soul High’ by John Legend,” Ruffin said. “His whole emotion and ethos is all there in his piano and when he sings.”

The music school is an immense part of Ruffin’s Mercer experience, but he also tries to go to as many events outside the music school. Ruffin is also a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. Ruffin emphasized the importance of also supporting other students outside your designated school.

When Ruffin thinks of his future, he hopes to continue performing.

“My main dream is to perform. For me, being on the stage, if I could do that every day, I would be happily content with that because that it how much I love music,” Ruffin said.