Post by Jason Camelio, director of international programs.

In recent years, our eyes and ears have been turning to eastern Asia for new sounds, approaches to the business of music and especially to the wealth of young talent that is exploding there.  Berklee has strong partner institutions already located in Korea, Japan and Malaysia.  Building on this success, we are expanding our recruitment, outreach and branding into locations in China, India and Singapore.  One of the most successful ways we have been able to connect with new regions and communities is through our alumni.  In January, chair of contemporary writing and production Matthew Nicholl, assistant director of admissions Pearly Lee and I had the chance to return to Hong Kong and Singapore to meet with our alumni, present clinics and information sessions and conduct auditions and interviews. 

In Hong Kong we were hosted by pianist, producer, artist, film composer and alum Ronald Ng at the Baron School of Music.  With a successful career in both the Hong Kong and mainland markets, Ronald expanded his work to artist development and music education.  Recently, he has also begun a truly unique endeavor with a non-profit arts education program called the Success In Music Charity Foundation.

Matthew Nicholl presents a master class on contemporary writing and production at Baron School of Music.

While at Baron, we presented information sessions and clinics to a pack room of students.  Among them was alum Sky Wu from Taiwan.  Having already completed his studies in Boston a few years ago, Sky joined us for the Songwriter and Performer summer program at the Berklee campus in Valencia in July 2012, while his son attended the 5 Week Summer Performance Program in Boston!  Sky traveled to Hong Kong with his son who was taking his audition and interview in January.

Matthew held court, covering the spectrum of ideas and concepts in the minds of today’s writers and producers.  The audience was engaged and had excellent questions — many of them coming in the traditional fashion after the clinic was over.  A highlight of the afternoon sessions was the performance of two young musicians from outside of Shanghai.  Alto saxophonist Yuanyu Yang and pianist Haorong Zheng played for the attendees and lit up the room.  Both young musicians met the Berklee team in Shanghai in 2011 at the JZ Club and were award full-tuition scholarships to attend the 5 Week Summer Performance Program in Boston.  They joined us in Hong Kong to take their audition and interview for admission to Berklee.

We closed out our visit to Hong Kong with an informal hang with some excellent alumni living and working in the region. Among the alums were arranger, producer and educator Charlotte Chan; pianist, composer and arranger Patrick Lui and saxophonist Miles Li.  All shared details of their successful work.

Assistant director of admissions Pearly Lee presents an information session to a packed room at School of the Arts Singapore (SOTA).

The next leg of our tour took us to the School of the Arts Singapore (SOTA).  SOTA is a fantastic place — from the teachers and department heads to the dedicate and exceptional students to the impressive world-class facilities.  We sincerely appreciate the work of Dirk Stromberg and his team for hosting us.  This was our second official visit to Singapore to conduct clinics and A&I.  Once again, the hall at SOTA was packed with students from across Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia and a few from Australia.  Pearly present details about all of Berklee’s programs to secondary and college-age students, while Matthew led an excellent discussion on the craft and art of the contemporary writer and producer.  We wrapped up the day with a performance master class working with some talented SOTA students.

In addition to our work at SOTA, including three full days of auditions and interviews, we had the chance to meet with some of our exceptional alumni.  Back in my days in the office of scholarships and student employment we had an all-star team of assistants.  Among them was pianist, composer and producer Poh Gek “Faith” Tay.  Having done some time in the trenches as a film score composer and editor in Kuala Lumpur, Faith has moved to Singapore and is teaching a Singapore Polytechnic (SP) with another alum Gerald Li.  After visiting SP, we were invited to the School of Music and Arts (SOMA), which was founded and managed by alum, artists and producer Keith Kwok.

(Back L-R) Jason Camelio, Faith Tay, Ince Kosasih, Marvin Khoo, Christine Sham, Ruth Ling, Dione Tan, Peter Huang, Keith Kwok, Felix Phang, (Front L-R) Matthew Nicholl, Pearly Lee and Gerald Lim

With Pearly and Faith’s help, we gathered a group of the alumni together for an excellent hang.  We were happy to see that they were all working as performers, educators, engineers, producers, composers and arrangers.  Our new steps forward in Hong Kong and Singapore demonstrate to us that our alumni are doing a fine job in their careers, allowing us to reach out to them to help us find the next generation of Berklee students who will ideally follow in their footsteps.