I’ve begun volunteering to do voiceover to read news for the blind and disabled, which I am able to record from my home studio. Not only does this keep me in practice, it helps others who might otherwise have difficulty accessing this information. I’ve also been hard at work with my production team creating PSAs and other COVID-19 related content to try to help inform (and even amuse!) the greater community while we streamline systems to allow us to film, edit and score these pieces even while in isolation from one another. I’m not alone in these efforts! As part of some of the work I have been doing, I was introduced to an incredible woman named Angela Chan who started the Cre8sian Project, which is aimed at highlighting the accomplishments of Asians in the Arts, as well as Asian females in the arts. She kindly agreed to an interview and I think her words will inspire you:
1. In a short paragraph, please tell us a little about yourself, your background and your work.
I am a music director, pianist, writer, composer, lyricist, and vocal coach! I grew up as a classically trained competition pianist. I competed for years growing up until my piano teacher had a stroke when I was a sophomore in high school. At the time I was in concert band, marching band, and was starting to get into jazz band, so I sort of strayed away from classical music for a bit. When I was a senior, I didn't really know what I wanted to do with my life. I didn't really want to be a classical pianist, but I wasn't good enough at jazz to major in it, so I went back to classical to get into college and got into the University of North Texas as a classical piano major. It wasn't until my second year of college that I discovered musical theater. I had never been exposed to theater much growing up, but once I did my first show, I knew there was something special about it! I loved every aspect of musical theater, so I delved into it as much as I could! After graduating from college I was fortunate enough to go out on tour with a bunch of broadway shows, "South Pacific," "The Sound of Music," "Cats," and "Phantom of the Opera," and have performed in all 50 states, plus Puerto Rico, Canada, and Mexico! In 2006 I moved to Las Vegas, where I was fortunate enough to play in a bunch of the broadway shows on the Strip; "Phantom: The Las Vegas Spectacular," "Lion King," "Spamalot," and "Jersey Boys," to name a few, as well as work for Cirque du Soleil, The Las Vegas Philharmonic, and the Nevada Ballet Theatre! In 2011 I co-wrote a musical called "Legacy of the Tiger Mother." It was my first foray into writing, but I ended up self producing it and it played in theater festivals in New York, the Adelaide Fringe Festival in Adelaide, Australia, and the San Francisco Fringe Festival, where we won a "Best of the Fringe" award! Since then I've composed music and/or lyrics for 3 more shows. I am also heavily involved in a non profit called Positively Arts, which uses the arts to empower, educate, inspire, and heal. I help them with vocal coaching students who can't afford to take lessons, give masterclasses, and perform for their two big performances every year: Arts in Action and Get Launched, which is a mentorship program that pairs students with professional performers! In addition to this I also became a Notary Public and a registered wedding officiant in Clark County, so I can marry anyone that wants to get married! (I have even married people in a t rex costume! lol). Currently I am the Assistant Bandleader/Keyboard 1 at "Le Reve The Dream" at Wynn Las Vegas and I do a lot of vocal coaching and audition prep for actors and singers. My newest project, The Cre8sian Project, has been an idea that's been floating around my head until last year, when I made the decision to make this idea a reality. As I developed it, I knew I wanted it to be centered around showcasing the strengths of Asians and Asian females in particular, and over the course of the last year the characters and the ideas developed as we went along, and the result is The Cre8sian Project, which is aimed at highlighting the accomplishments of Asians in the Arts, as well as Asian females in our industry, with a portion of the proceeds benefitting non profits who promote Asians in the arts and arts education programs!
2. What are the most challenging and most rewarding aspects of your work and why?
Some of the things I find most challenging are having to work with inefficient processes. I spend a lot of time prepping for every job I do to make sure that when the time comes to execute work, I've made it as efficient as possible, foreseen problems that can arise and navigated around them, so when I'm working in an environment where I can see a lot of inefficiency going on, or time being wasted, it's really hard for me to sit back when I know I'm not in charge and can see solutions to the chaos! On the other hand, I love volunteering with Positively Arts and getting my fellow musicians at Le Reve involved with their events! It's always super rewarding to be able to share our love and knowledge of music with students who are enthusiastic and who truly love and benefit from these experiences! There is nothing better (for me) than to help a student find their "voice" for the first time!
3. How do race and/or gender and/or diversity play into your work?
I don't know if race has really played much into my work (other than there aren't very many Asian musicians in the musical theater world), but I sometimes feel like gender has worked against me sometimes. It's very difficult for a women to compete for Musical Director positions in the theater world. Not a lot have done it, and you have to be really up your game at least 200% to stay in the game.
4. What are the best and worst things that have happened to you, within the context of race or gender issues in the arts or just generally, and what did you learn from them?
I've never been good at learning languages, and I think in the context of race, I've always felt some condescension from Chinese people (in particular) because I didn't learn to speak Chinese. My grandmother was from a small village in China and her dialect isn't widely spoken, so when I was going to Chinese school as a small child, my struggles were very real trying to learn a language everyone else already knew. I remember going to the wrong class one day, and the teacher was speaking Chinese very rapidly. She saw the deer in headlights look on my face and asked me a question in Chinese. When it was obvious I had no idea what she said, she very loudly said in front of the class "You know nothing! Go back to the beginner class!" I gathered my things and went to the bathroom and cried until it was time for my parents to pick me up. I had so many experiences like that at Chinese schools that I eventually begged my dad not to make me go anymore. I had to cry to him for 3 hours straight before he agreed that I could stay home and study with him. I think because of this I struggled a little more with proudly identifying as an Asian because I was treated so badly. It was hard to find Asian Americans that were like me where I grew up; Chinese kids that only spoke English. I know that look well when an Asian person asks me if I speak Chinese, and the disappointed look when I tell them that I don't speak Chinese, except now I can just shrug and say "at least I play the piano," and laugh it off.
5. If you could share a single sentence of advice or insight for others, particularly those in arts or in the entertainment business, what would it be?
Never stop learning, never stop trying and make sure if you want to be in this business, that you truly love your craft. The second you decide you already know enough is the day your downfall starts. And without love, all of this becomes just work.
6. Do you think artists have an obligation to create diverse and/or morally and socially conscious content? Is art always a form of activism? Should it be? Why or why not?
I don't know if we necessarily have an obligation to create socially conscious content. I think that a lot of interesting content comes from the clash between the morally conscious against the immorally conscious. I don't always think art is a form of activism, unless you make it, and sometimes it turns out that way without you meaning for it to. For me, art is about storytelling. How do we tell the story to make it relevant? How do we make it relatable. Sometimes there isn't a purpose for it that aligns with an activist strategy, although sometimes they do. And our content is always our opinion, our take on how we view things. I think it depends on where our individual fights are taking us.
7. What is the most sage lesson you have learned that can translate into advice for others?
Learn from your mistakes. And learn from other's mistakes too. It cuts down on so much wasted time when you already know something doesn't work so you can spend more time focusing on other better solutions.
8. Does your advice change at all if I ask you to focus on women and/or minority filmmakers? If so, why and how.
I don't think it does. I think forming a strategy is so important, but definitely applicable to everyone.
9. What is the single most fun moment you've experienced in your work (and you create female Asian superheroes so there have got to be a lot of fun moments!) ?
Hm, this is a tough one! lol I always try to have fun whenever I'm at work, so I'm always happy to do silly things like show up in a trex costume, or play a little musical joke while we're having to vamp if we have technical issues during a show! During a production of The Music Man I was conducting, the percussionist was a well known joker and was always trying to "get" us during the show. He had a train whistle he played at one point during the show, and he always blew it as hard as he could until he doubled over because he had no air left. So one day I secretly passed around sharpies and cardboard to all the musicians in the pit and asked them to write a "rating number" on it, and when he went to play his train whistle that show, he came back up for air and saw everyone holding up their ratings signs at him and laughing!! lol
10. What is the single most obnoxious moment you've experienced in the arts industry?
Is there ever really just one? I don't know that I can answer this question without getting in trouble . . . lol
11. What lies ahead for you?
Who knows where this crazy world will take me! I hope to keep growing as a performer and teacher, and keep bringing the arts to children of all ages! But I'm also not opposed to completely changing directions and having a totally different life. I supposed that's the beauty of living in an unpredictable world!
12. What does the phrase "Ethical Is Beautiful Be Beautiful" mean to you and your work, if anything?
To me that phrase means to always do right by everyone. I always try to treat everyone I work with respect and let them know how much I appreciate them. Kindness is always free, but it's one of the greatest tools a leader can utilize. Even through the worst of situations (kind of like the state of the world we live in now), people, if they're treated right, will still have the strength to follow a good leader, one they feel sees and hears them, and knows their worth. I think it means always having people's best interests at heart, because then people never feel cheated by you, and with that you can create a strong trust among your peers.
SOCIAL MEDIA LINKS IF YOU'D LIKE TO CONNECT WITH ANGELA: