A wonderful evening of jazz standards kicked off by a nice hangout over teh-tarik and virtual rehearsals with ba-da-bing ba-da-boo ba-da-pow with Mario Serio and Didi Mudigdo.

I had never previously blogged about a vox series performance, but since this one would likely mark our last performance here in SG this year (2016), i thought it would be a nice marker to our new chapter back in Perth. It is also my first all-standards evening. It dawned on me that the singer-songwriter bit did come across to the fans and friends as more significant, and probably hence overshadowed my burning, undying love for standards. They are the real reasons why I strive to write more skilfully.

L-R: Mario Serio (p), Juliet Pang (v), Didi Mudigdo (b)

L-R: Mario Serio (p), Juliet Pang (v), Didi Mudigdo (b)

I had always enjoyed playing with old-timers not because i didn’t enjoy playing with the chappies, but i might have mentioned this before, that i really think it’s a precious time of learning. Humility comes naturally in the presence of Greatness, and Greatness comes with first humility. And so it gets passed on. I shared with friend and student Kristen just this trip that it is essential to place yourself in an environment where there are better players. To be the weakest one in the group, the band or the stage, is one of the most humbling and best learning experiences one would ever gain. I reflect on the number of times I’d played with peers who were better-experienced, better-skilled, some of whom were harsh, others nurturing and some who just don’t care. But i have gained from all of the above. As Alanis Morrisette had once mentioned in her albums, her gratitude to those who loved her and those who didn’t. They were what made her who she is today. And I would say this today. I remember the times of correction, even shaming, the times of nurture and unconditional sharing, and the times of being ignored. But they all contributed to the singer, the educator and the person that I am today.

The band and the beautiful audience

The band and the beautiful audience

Mario and Didi happen to be 2 of the most amazing players both the mastery of their instruments, the ever-undying curious spirit to grow, as well as their generosity to the newbies. I can recall Mario (and he still does that) when i called him to be the piano-player for one of my early jazz gigs and asked him for advice about the band mates to call. And he threw me a few big names, and naively i asked him, so who’s better and who would he prefer to play with? I won’t say who he mentioned, but i’d tell you what happened next. I asked him, so why don’t we just go with xxx? He responded “…well, we should also give a chance to the others who are new in the game…” Those few words of wisdom struck a cord in me deeply. And i was immediately humbled. I knew then at the moment, the successful musician held more than one single responsibility. To grow but to help others grow too.

Didi Mudigdo, bassist, pianist and a consummate performer, and of course, my best friend next to Jesus,… and my husband, had gone through many rough hours with me. When a fellow singer friend disbelievingly asked me, “I recall you struggled with pop piano… how did you learn how to play like this now…?” By ‘this’ i assumed she was not talking about greatness, but just simply, jazz piano. I had been playing pop for several years by then, mainly self-taught, but also with precious guidance from a dear friend, Kangyang (Replugged Music). But she hadn’t seen me on the piano since about a decade so she had lots to catch up about my musical growth. A late bloomer, and not bearing the brains to reverse-engineer like Herbie Hancock, or Didi Mudigdo, often i struggled with reading manuals and jazz books on my own. But when I decided piano was my 2nd love and I had to pursue it against all odds and disdain from friends, especially perhaps musos, I enrolled myself for a Graduate Course in Sydney majoring in Performance in Piano. I always knew my decisions often invited negative sentiments and reactions from peers at home (they called me a non-Singaporean for a reason), and for a singer to pursue piano, saxophone, and the jazz ukulele,…. (and more ~ there aren’t enough lifetimes on this planet, so i’ve learnt to set them aside as dreams during retirement), often i must have seemed audacious to my peers. It was and still is clear to me. If you want something badly enough, it wasn’t about how good or bad you ARE, but how far you reach for it, and how much love, desire or passion you have to sustain reaching for it against all eyes and hearts. And if you do have all of that, even if you tried putting it aside, it comes right back at you, haunting you ’til you pick it up, and get a go again. When i stumbled upon this truth about dreams, I wasted no time hesitating. If tomorrow never fulfilled this dream, today would. That is why I’m not afraid of making mistakes, because it means that that is one less thing i would have a problem with tomorrow. It’s okay to make mistakes, because it gives me a chance not to make it tomorrow. That’s how ‘better’ happens. And what better buys you, is more fun, more adventure, more skill is saying what you mean. When the school syllabus in Sydney got too fuzzy and hairy, I begged Didi to give me a clue. It was a real struggle to have lessons with your bf (at that time). So we didn’t have many. If i could all the lessons we have had together these 6 years, it wouldn’t past 10. But each lesson was more than just learning things. It was all about humbling. I learnt to shut up when i had questions at times, and to trust the teacher. I learnt about communication. I learnt about teaching. I learnt how to practice. Lessons often were just guidelines. Like learning a+b=c. But it takes your own discipline to put it into daily practice. A daily ritual you return to until it was 2nd nature to pull them out spontaneously. Until you knew it was not a formula anymore. Until the first question you wanted to ask or challenge you teacher was answered through your own explorations. Today without Didi’s persistence in believing in me, and the difficult student that i was, I would not have climbed this far to hold myself on a piano gig. But that isn’t my dream. My dream is to be able to say, sing, paint anything I hear through the keys of the piano at any one point of improvisation in any song. My dream is to be able to be a better person, through these opportunities God has availed to me through wonderful mentors and peers who selflessly, unjudgingly, offered something they didn’t have to. And then pass it on.

Reunion with student/friends Sissi Goh (L) and Kristen Png (R)

Passing it on: Reunion with student/friends Sissi Goh (L) and Kristen Png (R)

So filled with gratitude i was with these 2 greats in my life standing on stage playing with them at SingJazz Club on 21st April. The wonderful sound system that night, helped me paint with my voice, and my person more authentically, and I walked off, feeling that today I am better than yesterday, and tomorrow will be better than today, but i am So Grateful.

Thank you Lord. And bless you all for turning up to share these candid moments through Jazz with us.

Thank you!

Thank you!

Last but not least, thank you Mom and Dad for turning up to the gig and protecting me from the news that might have affected me on the gig. It meant a lot to me that you did that for me. Thank you.

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