|Kailin Yong and the Boulder Acoustic Society
Web site: http://kailinyong.com/index.php
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I was born and raised in deep, deep, deep south……east Asia, on a tropical island called Singapore, which coincidentally is its own country, certainly not part of China. I guess I could have been the next Yo-Yo Ma or Sarah Chang had my parents allowed me to go to London when I was discovered by a visiting professor from the Royal Academy of Music at age 13, right after winning the National Music Competition. Instead, my eventual studies at the Academy of Music in Vienna were delayed another 9 long years so that I could be ‘contaminated’ by the sounds of the Bee Gees, Chinese pop music, 2 1/2 long years in the army, late night Mahjong games and lots of Singaporean food. It was an interesting irony that later on I was advised by my Polish professor in Vienna that my rice-eating background was seriously compromising my ability to feel and play Bach and Brahms right.
Thanks to the early decision of my parents (or rather the will of the Universe, the Tao, channeled through the parents), I have been able to lead a rather eclectic and colorful life. I am acutely aware of the fact that I am who I am today because of where I have been, the people I have met, the lessons I have learned, the heartbreaks I have endured and the joy I have experienced from just being alive. I am grateful for my life Now. I am also quietly excited about what the Future might bring. Thanks to the Tao, I got to play and tour around the globe with the Asian Youth Orchestra for three summers, embarking on my path as an ambassador of music. I also gained invaluable musical experience from playing in wedding quartets as a teenager, having to sight read tons of arrangements of popular tunes as well as learning to play Vivaldi’s Four Seasons on the job.
Off to Europe
In 1992, I caused my parents considerable heartache and consternation when I tore up the admission letter from the National University of Singapore for going to Engineering school. It was my final protest. I am going to be a musician! And nothing is going to stand in my way! From the first moment I set foot in Vienna on Dec 27, 1993, my path took such a drastic turn that nothing else in my life since was predictable ever again… Living in Vienna and traveling around Europe gave me the opportunity to hear on a daily basis some of the greatest classical artists live. It also exposed me to a fair amount of gypsy music as I traveled through Eastern Europe. It was right around this time that I became acquainted with the music of Piazzolla, Tom Jobim, Stephane Grappelli and TISQ. By the time I was leaving Vienna for New York to start the Aerith Quartet, it was pretty clear that classical music wasn’t the only type of music I want to play. In fact, I had the fantasy of steering my string quartet towards a fusion of Kronos, Turtle Island and the Takacs.
In the year 1999, I found myself stranded in San Francisco, penniless, friendless, jobless, and an illegal immigrant after a residency position at the state university fell through for the Aerith Quartet. It was there that I started my career as a street musician in the underground public transit system of the city. That entire experience remains the most emotional, most educational and most character-building period of my life. It was also in the subterranean concert hall of the BART that I started to improvise on my fiddle; making up tunes that represented my mood and musing, telling stories of my life and sharing my deepest emotions. This was how I made my living for a year in the Bay Area until Aerith Quartet got offered another residency position in Boulder, CO at an arts organization.
Since moving to Boulder in the summer of 2000, I have been spoiled by its surprisingly diverse music scene. I was like a kid in a candy store, being introduced to all the different types of music by my super talented friends and mentors. My friend Ryan Drickey taught me my first fiddle tunes and took me to my first bluegrass festival. Then I met Art Lande who questioned my purpose of wanting to study jazz, who encouraged me to “do my own thing”. I also met the guys from Saltanah and Sherefe when I played an improvised piece for an aerial dance show and got introduced to Middle Eastern and Balkan music. At around the same time, I fell in with the Argentine tango scene in Denver and got to play the music of Piazzolla and Pugliese with Extasis. It is through my involvement with tango that I met my dear friend Jose Ferriera who exposed me to the colorful world of Brazilian music, which subsequently led me to start my own Brazilian ensemble, Beco Do Choro.
Boulder Acoustic Society
The main group that I have been touring and playing with for the past 4 years is the adventurous and eclectic roots music string band Boulder Acoustic Society. Mentor and fiddling wizard Darol Anger called us “…the future of String Band Music on a silver platter.” I have not worked with a group of guys more driven and more committed then Aaron Keim, Brad Jones, Scott McCormick and most recently, young Scott Aller. We all come from such different backgrounds and have such different personalities that it creates a dynamic 5-way relationship that is at the same time challenging and inspiring. The diversity also contributes to a very unique musical identity that we call “neo-acoustic”. My involvement with BAS continues to open doors for me as we tour around the country playing music. I get to meet so many wonderful people and form so many deep and long-lasting friendships. Through BAS, I got to meet Lissy Rosemont and the Junior League and eventually recorded their debut CD with them at the NPR studio in DC. I also got to record with singer/songwriter Gabrielle Louise and the quirky dynamic rock duo, Zebra Junction.
I am currently and finally finishing up my solo CD, which is temporarily titled “Bowing with the Flow”. It consists of all original tunes in different styles and dedicated to some of the most important people of my life. It’s a snapshot of my musical and cultural journey for the past 10 years and it gives me the opportunity and immense pleasure to play with some of my most favorite musicians in town, including the insanely talented multi-instrumentalist Jesse Manno, the guys from Colcannon, the guys from Saltanah, my friend and BAS colleague, Scott McCormick and many more.
Pastel drawing of Kailin by Florencia Giusti
My lifelong dream is to become an ambassador of Music where I travel around the world promoting friendship and peace by playing my fiddle and working with other like-minded musicians. I have a lot of respect for my friend and mentor, Cameron Powers and his wife Kristina Sophia who carry their Musical Mission of Peace through the Middle East, fostering friendship, peace and understanding between the US and the Middle East. So it is only fitting that one of the songs on my CD, “Pearl”, is dedicated to this cause and to the person who embodied this same cause, slain Wall St journalist Daniel Pearl. I was awarded the Daniel Pearl Memorial Violin few years ago at the Mark O’Connor Strings Conference and I feel like now is the time that I could really make a difference.
I really have very little regrets about how my life has turned out. I have reached out to the Universe with my love and music, and I am getting back more than I could ever dream of. I am just going to keep following the Tao and I hope to cross paths with you somewhere along the way…