“Walking your Own Path” with Foo Jeng Wong!

It’s great to hear from our GIS Alumni, to connect with them and share their success stories with everyone. Today we have Foo Jeng Wong from Class of 2015, one of our Alumni, who lives in Boston, Massachusetts, USA. Foo Jeng studied Performance at Berklee College of Music and has recently released a choral piece that he wrote and recorded last November! You can follow his musical journey through his Instagram, Soundcloud or Bandcamp! Or check out one of his videos on Youtube.


Foo Jeng, could you please share with us your journey after GIS?

After GIS, I attended the Berklee College of Music where I studied Jazz Piano and Classical Composition. I had an amazing time at Berklee as I was immersed in an environment where music was the sole focus of the community around me and gave me the opportunity to explore and develop my artistic voice.


I’ve since graduated and I’ve been working as a freelance musician. This allowed me to conduct classical concerts, wrote music for artistic commissions, participate as a composer in numerous classical music festivals (such as the St Petersburg International New Music Festival and the Sao Paulo Contemporary Composers Festival) and teach at a public school (for a short amount of time). I was also placed first at the El Paso Society of Musicians for the Future Original Music/New Ideas competition last year.


Tell us more about this choral piece and all the other work that you have been doing?

This piece is an exploration of David’s story in Psalm 13, where he overcomes his religious struggles through his trust in the “Light”. It turns out that there’s a whole litany of sounds that one can explore with 8 singers, and I used that to illustrate David’s journey by having the canonic vowels eventually progress into a melodic chorale. This juxtaposes the depths of David’s anguish and euphoria and also creates a sense of structure that’s also reflected through the pacing of the words.

Beyond this choral piece, I also have a Jazz album that’s being released this summer so please stay tuned! It’s an album written for a jazz rhythm section and string quartet and consists of 5 pieces, written by myself and another written by my friend, who’s an amazing composer, Eri Chichibu (you can find her at https://www.erichichibu.com/). This album could only exist because of the hard work of everyone involved, and I look forward to sharing it with you all in the near future. 


Advice to students who may be choosing the same path as you!

My advice would be to seek out other musicians/artists and find out about how they navigated society as a musician, as everyone’s journey is unique. In my case, I’ve realized that it’s very important, especially as a musician, to pick your career through your own volition and informed research. Rather than through the societal pressures of others (one could refer to this as chasing “clout”). This is because the validation of strangers is only temporary, but your opinion of yourself remains eternal. And the choices that you make are ones that you’ll have to deal with for the rest of your life. 

In regards to music, I think that you have to define what a successful career means to you and then find the shortest route towards that. This can be done through speaking to other musicians while diligently working on all aspects of your own musical abilities. 


Share with us your best memories at GIS!

While I was at GIS, I was heavily involved in the GIS musical community. I really enjoyed the variety of shows that we played, ranging from battle of the bands and musicals to lounge events and orchestral performances. I also enjoyed being amongst a group of career-driven individuals (who were and still are), as this gave me the right mindset to discover my path as a musician once I graduated. 

There were a few teachers at GIS who had a great impact on my growth as an individual, namely: the Music Department (Mr and Mrs Long, Mr Gui and Mr Smith), Mr Bright, Ms Clark, Mr Donaldson, Dr Browning, Ms Mangin, Mrs Yap, Mrs Ratnam and Mr Mah. I share many memories with them, and I wouldn’t be the person I am today if it wasn’t for them.