One of them is writing an essay for class about how “music is society’s opiate,” and wants to use her soon-to-come psychology degree to teach kids in high school. The other is taking school exams in between performance gigs in venues like Las Vegas electronics shows, and is almost as happy working on international relations for model UN in anticipation of a possible overseas career.
They are Clara C. and Jason Yang, two musicians looking for affirmation of what they usually do outside of school for fun: playing and singing their hearts out to create the sound. They are two competitors performing at Kollaboration 10, an Asian American empowerment through entertainment event, where they may get further affirmation that what they are doing is worth everything.
Clara C. is a Korean American singer raised in Los Angeles, where she grew up playing the drums in church, considering majoring in flute, becoming an expert in guitar, and even hitting the glockenspiel. All these instruments are heard in Clara’s YouTube videos like “Hallelujah,” “Fireflies,” and “Misery Business,” but perhaps her most wonderful performance so far is the original “Fool’s Gold,” where she plays chords on the keyboard while intoning an intoxicating voice singing “all I could wring from our love was this song.”
“It was a love-hate thing with the piano,” said Clara. “At first I loved it, and then I realized I had to work hard and I hated it, then quit it; I must have quit it like 18 times, but stuck with it for five or seven years.”
That determination seems to come from her need to create music that is not, as she says, “boxed in” as in classical music. And thus she followed her “quiet dream.”
That dream was never extinguished when she decided to study psychology and education at UC Irvine, but hopes of performing in public dwindled until inspiration caused her to turn her hobby into winning competitions. And she racked up win after win, like JCPenny’s ISA Breakout Artist contest. But does Clara really want to do music or psychology or education?
“Remember those kids in schools who always asked why for everything you say?” asked Clara. “I was one of those kids; I wanted to know why everything happened, why you think that way, why people react to this not that.”
But beyond the fascinating field of abnormal psychology, Clara really wants to teach, and she is TAding at Castlebay Elementary School.
“I just want minds to mold,” said Clara.
As for her future, Clara just wants to do what she loves for the rest of her life, although interacting with people or kids must be a prerequisite. It could be music performance, music education, or English education.
“Wherever life takes me, I’ll be glad to follow,” said Clara.
Also taking life as it comes is USC student and electric violinist Jason Yang. Born in New Jersey of Taiwanese parents, Yang is trained classically, and has been playing the violin for sixteen years. Seeing the success of Vanessa May, his dad urged Yang to take up the electric violin, and his work can now be seen all over YouTube. There’s Black Eye Peas’ “I Gotta Feeling” done in Yang’s own eclectic electric violin style. There’s Sam Sparro’s “Black and Gold,” featuring Yang sitting next to his huge toy tiger, playing with passion. There are also clips from Yang’s participation in the Zodiac Show of Adam Lambert (from “American Idol”).
All this coming from an International Relations major.
“It’s a safer choice really,” said Yang. “I’ve seen so many of my friends finish successfully with a performance degree and find no work; I wanted something more academic that I was still interested in.”
Being involved in model UN and AP government in high school, Yang also toured with the Philadelphia Youth Orchestra all over western and eastern Europe, leading him to an appreciation of world cultures.
“I’m not satisfied with knowing what’s going on around me in the immediate present,” said Yang. “I like to know what happened in the past with different kinds of people, and what might happen in the future.”
Like Clara, Yang didn’t think he had a performance career in him in his first two years in college. Then, a friend of his found a flyer for a corporate gig with Panasonic in Las Vegas demanding an electric violinist with serious rock chops. Yang took the last audition spot, got the gig, and made more and more connections from there, including getting work with Ford Motor Company and Amway. And the school work?
“I would be getting out of a class Friday morning, getting to the airport, in rehearsal Friday evening and Saturday, perform on Sunday, and get back to class Monday morning,” said Yang.
For Yang, Kollaboration is an opportunity to take himself to the next level. But fame isn’t ultimately what he demands.
“My dream would be to perform and record and tour for as long as I can [support myself],” said Yang. “I wouldn’t have to necessarily make hundreds of thousands of dollars like in an office job.”
Clara, too, has a similar vision of the future.
“Fame is tricky, because it can be dangerous, fleeting, and temporary,” said Clara. “My goal isn’t fame, it’s quality; quality over quantity.”
The time is now, for these psychology and IR majors, to step out of school, to show to everyone else the heart that they put into making music. But why choose Kollaboration as a platform? What is it about Asian American empowerment that appeals to these artists?
“The talents who shine, whether Asian American or not, are the ones who really believe in their art,” said Clara. “They don’t do it because of the money or fame; people can smell a phony.”
Because the music is true.
Kollaboration 10 (http://www.kollaboration.org/) is happening on Saturday, March 6, 2010, at Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. Clara C. and Jason Yang will be two of the featured performers.
By Ray Luo