In Tune with Singer-songwriter Diana Li

I’ve been following Diana Li for some time now since a fellow leader in the Los Angeles Taiwanese American community clued me in to this talented singer-songwriter. After watching her perform on multiple YouTube clips, I instantly became a fan and have since invited her to perform at San Francisco’s Taiwanese American Cultural Festival for two consecutive years. Without a doubt, she is always a hit, stopping crowds in their tracks. I’m sure they, too, are captivated by this young performer whose robust and penetrating voice resonates beautifully between the towering downtown buildings. I’ve caught up with Diana several times in the past year and have asked her to share some of her background story. So here we are, with an exclusive interview with Diana Li.

On first impression, Diana is like any other young professional you would meet. By day, she works, but on a weekly basis, she performs a regular evening restaurant gig at Gemmell’s Restaurant and is a frequent performer at local coffee shops. “I’m a girl a few years deep into her corporate life, with a few non-corporate activities sprinkled around on the side to provide some personal fulfillment and variety! I’m a ‘woman of action’ type. I like to get things done and be productive in all facets, including music.” And, as I’ve gotten to know Diana over the past couple of years, I’ve discovered that she does know how to balance work, music, and spontaneous inspiration. I’ve caught her working late at night, recording songs to share with her YouTube audience. Now, that’s dedication to be admired.

Currently, Diana resides in Orange County in Aliso Viejo. “I’ve been here a couple years, and previously have lived in LA for school as well as work. I’m originally from the central coast of California.” I’m more interested in her musical background and foundation. After all, many Taiwanese American kids are encouraged to play the piano or violin when they’re young. I’m curious to know if she shares the same experience. Interestingly though, she’s had a unique background and interest in music. “Like many Asian American kids, I did take private piano lessons from the ages of 5 to 17. And unlike many kids, I did do theater, musical theater, and choirs as well to develop the singing part. I only took a few private voice lessons, but nothing compares to the thorough piano training. My roots go back to listening to Broadway and theater type music. Prior to that I even learned to sing some songs in Chinese and Japanese as a child. As the years went by, I’ve listened to all sorts of music from pop to R&B to hip hop… but my acoustic pieces sound closest to the Broadway style I mentioned. I have a soft, emotional touch when it comes to music.”

Emotional touch, indeed. One only needs to listen to a few of the YouTube videos that she’s posted to see what kinds of positive responses her viewers have given. One video, featuring “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Miserables, has drawn over 100,000 viewers. Another subtle thing her viewers might pick up on is that some of her creative compilation pieces likely aren’t available on printed sheet music. Sure enough, Diana is able to play many songs by ear. “I have a pretty quick ear for music, so when I hear something I usually internalize it right away and can pick out the chords and arrange the song myself. If I’m drawn to the music, it’s all the easier. After that it’s practice and patience – that good formula works for everything.”

I’ve watched Diana perform live twice now, and I’m looking forward to her upcoming show this weekend. There’s something amazing about watching someone do the thing they love. Diana clearly loves music and sings at any opportunity to do so. “I do love performing and feeling the high of sharing music with the audience, but honestly sometimes the best moments are the intimate ones I have with small audiences. But I wouldn’t sing so much in public if I didn’t truly enjoy it. I’ve loved seeing the reactions of the guests at Gemmell’s Restaurant that I sing at. And children’s reactions are priceless!” The excitement in her tone is contagious. I think to myself, there are young people who will be inspired by her voice and love for music.

Diana has a bright future ahead of her, and I enjoy how she balances her work and passion. As I wonder what she has in store for the future, she offers a glimpse of what’s to come. “I continue to strive for balance with my job and my music, and hope that someday I can possibly teach music full time to combine the two professions and/or just do music on the side. I’m flexible. My CD ‘Dream & Do’ should be coming out very shortly… so look out for that! Performance-wise, I do keep them frequent and updated on my websites!” Secretly, I hope she realizes that she has all the talent needed to succeed in a full-time musical career.

I ask her if she has any final words for the audience of, in particular if she has any advice for people who are thinking about pursuing the arts. “I say that as long as you know what you are in for and don’t mind making the sacrifices necessary to succeeding in this path, then it’s for you.” I smile, because I know she has the formula for life just right. She adds one more thing, which makes me smile a little bit bigger. “Just a big thank you for all your support and attention and hope that you like listening as much as I like sharing!”

Thanks Diana! We look forward to seeing your musical career as it continues to rise!


Check out Diana’s links:

If you’re in the LA area on Friday, June 12th, 2009, come listen to her perform at Hollywood’s Cinespace with Christine Ofrecio.

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