So for my feature writing class, I had to follow a teacher in the music and theatre department around for a day and then write an article on that teacher, what she does on a daily basis, what the arts mean to her, what she love about ECU. I figured since I’ve been working on it, I’d mine as well share. Plus I got an awesome grade. Plus, this teacher is LEGIT, and you should check her out.
“You’re losing him,” Mollye Otis says from the corner where she’s sitting, watching her freshman student sing for her life to win over the man of her dreams. The soft melody from the keys of the piano resonates and floods the large room in its entirety.
“He’s walking away,” Otis continues, louder now. “Are you just going to let him go?”
The freshman girl takes a step forward and raises her chest higher and belts out the next note.
“Do you feel it yet?” says Otis. “Keep going.”
The girl sings louder, commanding the attention of the other 15 students sitting and watching, gathered in a circle around the piano.
“You’re almost there. Just let go.”
She sings louder.
“This is your love,” Otis says. “This is your life. This is your passion. Fight for it.”
The girl takes a lunge closer to her scene partner and reaches out for his arm while holding the loudest and longest note of the ballad. Squeezing his hand, she lets her voice dull to a whisper as the piano dies, her eyes interlocked with his in the stolen moment. The room is silent.
“You finally made it,” Otis says. She smiles.
For Otis, an instructor of voice for musical theatre at East Carolina University, that’s exactly what theatre is—her love.
This love, she says, started back home in Ohio, simply with her brother and a piano.
“I remember being very little and hearing my brother play the piano during one of his lessons,” says Otis. “After that, I knew it was my passion, and I needed to play. I took my first lesson when I was seven. I’ve been playing ever since.”
Otis pursued this passion, receiving a scholarship to the University of Kentucky, where she later graduated with both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in piano performance.
It was during this time that Otis sparked an interested in singing, deciding to take classical and commercial music training and later receiving a Vocology Institute Certificate.
“I wanted to teach young performers the proper way to conduct their voices classically, while also incorporating acting into their auditions and making that connection with the feeling music gives you,” says Otis. “In order to do this, I needed to be trained in both areas, and I needed to have real-world experience.”
Some of this real-world experience includes performing as pianist in the musicals “Chicago” and “Victor Victoria” on Broadway and serving as musical director of the Burt Reynold’s Institute of Theatre Training in Florida.
Otis also taught at other universities, including Pennsylvania State University and the University of Miami before joining the ECU theatre staff just recently this year.
And despite teaching all undergraduate level, private and group vocal lessons, five days a week, for over eight hours a day, Otis plans to make a home at ECU.
“ECU is the perfect fit for me,” she says. “The students are dedicated and very trusting. That’s really the key of it—you have to trust a person to train your voice and mold and shape it. It’s the biggest gift to me that they trust me.”
For the students, trust might be an understatement.
“We love Mollye,” her freshman studio class says in unison. “She’s one of a kind.”