MUSICIAN. PRODUCER. cultivaTOR.
I am an independent singer/songwriter/producer and founder of Vocal Artist House, a vocal coaching and music production studio in NYC. My career has traveled along parallel lines as a creator and nurturer. I compose and release music under my name (my album, Do We Reach Home, would be a good introduction to my work). I also teach, coach, and collaborate with singers from all walks of life. Clients have included Grammy, Tony, and Emmy-winning artists, winners of The Voice, Broadway veterans, and everyday people who sing to feed their souls.
In addition to the above, I have performed as a supporting musician for popular artists such as Florence + The Machine and Boyz II Men. A diverse array of gigs have taken me to Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, MTV Unplugged, Carnegie Hall, Jazz at Lincoln Center, the United Nations, and also NYC’s The Bitter End, where I met my wife, Carolyn (it has certainly not been a bitter end and we have 2 wonderful young children!).
Film is a related passion of mine that enables me to combine music with striking visuals and stories. Some favorite projects include producing a short narrative music video for my song, Reverie, directed by Angela Chen. Reverie screened at the Angelika Film Center in NYC and multiple arthouse cinemas across the country. I played and recorded violin for the poetic short film Hello From Taiwan, directed by Tiffany Francis, which has screened at MOMA and multiple film festivals throughout the US and abroad. Both Angela and Tiffany are Taiwanese-American film directors, and I’d love to continue working with them and more (Ang Lee, are you out there?). Finally, Pianoforte – a short horror film about a disturbed pianist that I directed and produced in 2 days as part of a 48-Hour film challenge – won Fan Favorite at NYC’s annual Winter Film Awards.
How does being Taiwanese/Taiwanese American and/or community ally play a role in your life?
There’s something special about being around other Taiwanese-Americans. Like all groups of people, Taiwanese-Americans are not a monolith and I don’t advocate banding people together just because they have similar roots. However, most Taiwanese-Americans can relate to the diaspora that so many Asian immigrants (and the children of those immigrants) experience. When I meet another Taiwanese-American, especially one my age, we share commonalities in our upbringing and have similar stories about our parents.
Over the years I’ve performed at functions held at NYC’s Taiwan Center, and I have especially enjoyed collaborating with fellow Taiwanese-American artists on creative projects due to our mutual experiences steeped in both American and Asian cultures. The Taiwanese-American artist community is relatively small, so it’s a bonus when our paths cross. Shout out to you guys at TaiwaneseAmerica.org who have been a great early supporter of my music endeavors, featuring me.
If you could teach future generations 1 thing about being Taiwanese/Taiwanese American or Taiwan, what would it be?
Here’s something that not everyone will agree with. Many Taiwanese-American and Asian-Americans, particularly ones born and raised in the US, become very offended when people ask “where are you from?” In my experience, this question is usually one of honest curiosity and not one of aggression. I’m culturally very American (born in Taipei but came to the United States when I was only 1). I happily answer the “where are you from” question with “Taiwan” first. People are genuinely curious about ethnicity, and it feels good to bring up my Asian background rather than simply saying “New Jersey.” While everyone longs for a sense of belonging, there’s absolutely no need to prove your American-ness by omitting your Asian heritage. To me, that feels like denying thousands of years of Asian culture. I can see how someone might feel differently though if they were disconnected from their Asian roots. If you’re Taiwanese-American and you currently do not know much about Taiwanese-Americans or Taiwan, it’s very much worth the effort to dive in and learn more.
What does the future of Taiwanese America look like to you?
The future of Taiwanese America is one where there are many of us visible at the forefront of the industry, including in popular culture. Some Taiwanese-Americans may feel increasingly distant from their Taiwanese roots due to being 2nd or 3rd generation Americans (or longer), but I think we’ll also see many Taiwanese-Americans very curious to learn and claim more of their Taiwanese lineage. It’s important to develop a healthy sense of pride in one’s full heritage. “Taiwanese” and “American” are not mutually exclusive.
Favorite memory of Taiwan/Taiwanese America?
I have great memories of the beaches of Kenting National Park as well as the bustling night markets in Taipei. There’s such a wide range of things to do in Taiwan. I took my wife (a Midwesterner from Wisconsin) on a terrific trip to Taiwan to visit my extended family, and our favorite memory has to be visiting the hot springs!
Favorite Taiwanese food?
Taiwanese-style basil three-cup chicken (三杯鸡, san bei ji). My parents would make this when I was growing up. Pure flavor.