I have been singing since I was 9-month-old. The rest of my childhood, teenage years, and college days were spent chasing some unattainable standard of perfection.
Now that I am mostly freed from the tyrant that is perfection, singing becomes a really happy activity and nourishment in my life. I sing constantly at home, with my own ensemble, with many ensembles around the country, and also with my students in the studio. No one kind of singing is better than another; the whole point is to communicate love and understanding. I have so, so, so many friends I met through singing.
Training-wise, was lucky enough to have come from a long lineage of excellent singing, including my mother (a lifelong singer), middle school (one of the best school choirs in Hong Kong), high school (an English cathedral choir, voted world best choir at some point), college (with Jo-Mike Scheibe at UMiami, an incredible program), during which I have started my professional career in singing, and then continued my love of it in graduate school (with the most amazing Laurie Monahan at Longy, in Cambridge) with so much chamber music and excellent singing. The years after graduate school has been filled with a variety of excellent vocal ensembles and people I couldn't even dreamed to have worked with. I never made a decision of how my career is going to work out; I just followed my nose and let what moves me guides me. I feel like I have gone through many versions of myself in just the past 10 years.
Church music, western English-style church singing was always very natural to me, since I grew up with that, but ever since I started being a medievalist in graduate school, my interests in folk/traditional/regional singing techniques have opened the door to a lot of fun and intrigue. I love the intimacy of small-group singing. I dislike the pressure and ego attached to large-scale solo singing or opera. But I love my friends who love doing those things.
Our voice is the MOST expressive instrument we have, and as human beings we sure have a lot of options. And as a woman, my voice has been continuously changing throughout the last 15 years. That is also really exciting.
What saddens me the most is when people decide that they can't sing, or when teachers tell young people that they can't sing, just because they do not conform to a certain ideal. If you have a mouth, you can sing; if you have a body, you can dance. I believe that with every fibre of my being. It is uniquely human to make crazy songs in harmony, and communicate, and explore. Treasure that uniqueness. Excellence is not an esthetic; it is a moment of complete union with another person, or with our surrounding. If I get just a glimpse of that during a performance, I'd say that the performance was excellent, and worthwhile. So much of the education of music is about achieving certain esthetic, without taking into account the personality, interest, background, and creativity of each person. I thrive to value every person's uniqueness and open doors for expression in their own unique way.
Oh, you know what else is a lot of fun? Improvisation! I started tinkering with improvisation when I was teaching elementary school using the Orff-Schulwerk method, refined it through many years of working with The Broken Consort and messing around with my musician friends. Some of my most cherished musical memories involved extensive improvisation: for example, recording an album with TBC that is 1/3 improvisation, and doing the Disobedient Femmes performance art show with many live musical improvisation numbers. We spent so many hours playing games with one another... laughing, making clever and weird choices, finding ideas, exploring new things.... I try my best to incorporate a spirit of improvisation and fun and adventure into every project I do, including teaching.
Regarding teaching: I currently teach voice at Reed College, and also at my private studio attached to Big Mouth Society. I also teach a beginners' singing group, and an advanced chamber early music group in Portland. I LOVE TEACHING. I don't teach children anymore; not because I don't like children, but mostly because I think there are better teachers out there for people to learn their basic skills from than me. I work best with dedicated adults whom understand my "inappropriate" personality. :)
I will share some videos or audio of my singing activities here once in a while, but don't expect a lot of updates.. :)
Okay, here is an excerpt of a solo I sang, O Domine, by Finnish composer Jennefelt, recently with Cappella Romana in Portland, OR. (Nov 2017)
Here is an excerpt of a composition/improvisation of a 17th c. Irish love poem I performed with Niccolo Seligmann on viola da gamba in 2014/15