By SAI CHANG
St. Paul, Minn. (July 16, 2010) The Center for Hmong Arts and Talent is holding its annual IN SESSION: Singer/Songwriter Competition in July and August. IN SESSION is a competition open for amateur singer/songwriters to display their musical abilities to the Twin Cities’ audience. Last year’s competition featured an array of talented musicians, including Bob Yang, who emerged as the 1st place winner.
IN SESSION is an event that strives to discover fresh talent and emerging artists. It aims to build a community amongst musicians, giving them a chance to network for potential collaborations and opportunities, and it challenges musicians to create music with originality, inspiration and innovation.
As the winner of the 4th Annual IN SESSION: Singer/Songwriter Competition held in July and August of 2009, Bob Yang successfully displayed those characteristics. During two rounds of competition against other talented musicians, Yang was able to express his unique style and passion for music through his moving words and melodic voice.
The following interview with Yang was conducted by Suzy Lee with CHAT shortly after his win.
What compelled you to enter the IN SESSION competition?
It’s tough for musicians to decide when they are good enough to step out as artists. You can’t wait forever though, and I am not getting any younger. I was glad to see a singer/songwriter competition and wanted to offer my support, win or lose.
Did you have the utmost faith in yourself that you would win this competition when you entered?
I really had no idea, but I just prepared as much as I could. It is easier to say now after it’s over, but seizing the opportunity was more important than winning the competition.
What do you think sets you apart from the other contestants?
I’m older and I have longer hair, heh. Well, I can’t speak for the other contestants, but I put a lot of thought into the competition, from song selection to lyrics, presentation, and performance.
After winning IN SESSION, what are your future musical aspirations?
I am not going to hold myself back anymore and will walk through any door that opens for me. I will be content with wherever that takes me.
After entering IN SESSION, did you learn anything new about yourself, musically or personally?
I learned that I still have a lot of room to grow, but I do have the discipline to achieve any goal that I set for myself.
How long have you been playing music, and who or what inspired you to pick up your first instrument?
I’ve been involved in music since high school, but I never really took it seriously. Now I struggle to express myself as a mediocre musician – but that may be what keeps me going.
Why do you continue to write and play music?
I write what I wish other people would. I believe there are people out there longing to be understood, and my music is my way of sharing my life experiences.
How would you describe your music to someone who has never seen or heard you play before? What can people expect from you as a musician?
I pursue honesty in my songs because I believe that transcends all genres of music. When you listen to my music, you know that I mean exactly what I’m saying.
What are some of your favorite musical artists?
I draw inspiration from all music. Spiritually: Rich Mullins, Andrew Peterson. Lyrically: Jason Mraz, Five for Fighting. Vocally: Matthew Santos, Josh Groban. Then there are the artists that constantly remind us to keep things real: Kanye West and Eminem.
Do you have a music webpage where people can listen to your music or would that be something that you will be setting up after recording?
I have both a personal and a fan webpage on Facebook. I also have a music sampler up on myspace – go to www.myspace.com/bobyangmusic. All my Facebook fans can listen to my rough demos and offer their input before I go into the studio. I can also be reached at [email protected] for any event booking.
Do you have any last words?
I believe that being a singer/songwriter is more than words and music. Find out who you are as a person, and you will be a better artist than you can ever be taught. I challenge all the singer/songwriters out there to start preparing now for the next IN SESSION. It was a great experience.
Since his win in last year’s IN SESSION, Yang has been busy recording his first album titled Ncu Kuv, due out to release this summer.
Don’t miss the upcoming 5th Annual IN SESSION: Singer/Songwriter Competition. IN SESSION is held in two rounds: The preliminary round is held at ICE Open Mic Live! on Friday, July 23rd held at “The Hub” inside the Student Center at Hamline University, 1536 Hewitt Ave, St. Paul 55104. The Final rounds are held at the 8th Annual Hmong Arts and Music Festival on Saturday, August 22, at the Western Sculpture Park off Marion Street in St. Paul.
Aspiring musicians looking to gain experience and/or exposure should register now. Space is limited. For more information or to register please contact CHAT at 651-603-6971 or Sai Chang via email at [email protected]
CHAT exists to nurture, explore and illuminate the Hmong American experience through artistic expressions. CHAT envisions a vibrant community where Hmong American artists are inspired to share their perspectives, valued for their creative contributions and empowered to challenge life’s boundaries. For more information about CHAT and IN SESSION please visit www.aboutchat.org.