Midday on Tuesday, November 23, was not your average lunch period in WAB's High School's Koi Garden Café. Boys "beatboxing" at the mic, kids grouped around the ivories, and a crowd gathering to listen to the sweet sounds transforming the space into a musical jam session. This new open-mic session, named 'Bitesize' for the brevity of each spontaneous bit and for its location, was the brain-child of Jasmine Chin, WAB Graduate 2007, who finds herself back at WAB this semester as an intern.
"There have been countless of times where I've heard strains of piano music floating up from the Koi Garden in between classes, or noticed students beatboxing under their breath in chemistry lessons," says Jasmine, 'These people deserve an audience,' I thought to myself. 'So why not create a platform for them?'" Thus the idea of having open mic performances during lunchtime was born.
With a simple setting comprised of three microphones and one piano, the first Bitesize session of the year was launched. APAC Choir opened the session with their outstanding acappella piece, Seaside Rendezvous, before Henry Bian and his crew of Liam Higgins, Daniel Lee, Jonathan Lin and Curtis Wang wowed the audience with their beatboxing abilities. Mr. Bailey then took to the stage with a heartfelt, sensitive reading of Nia Long's Nina's Poem, and this was followed by a series of beautiful acoustic covers: Dave Matthews Band's #41 and John Mayer's Clarity by Matt and Nick Kochlowski, Snow Petrol's Run by Caleb Lin, and Lady Gaga's Speechless by Natalie McMullen.
Less familiar, but equally delightful, treats were provided by Eirdis Ragnarsdottir, as well as by the jazz duo team of Lawrence Pi and Brian Chin, who not only sang in APAC Choir but also provided the piano accompaniment for Caleb and Natalie. Self-accompanied on the piano, Eirdis captivated crowds with her Icelandic song recounting her sentiments about moving to China. Lawrence and Brian, on the saxophone and piano respectively, then proceeded to bring the house down with sentimental jazz improvisations which continued throughout the next period, much to the delight of the remaining listeners, and perhaps the chagrin of teachers!!
Jasmine Chin blended in seamlessly with the "Bitesize" crowd, being a bit musician, a bit student, and a bit teacher herself. Jasmine is back at WAB as an intern this semester, assisting in several capacities – with Grade 11 Music, Chinese A-2, and Chinese ABinitio, and Grade 10 and 11 History. This is a perfect variety for Jasmine, who is fulfilling her goal this semester of gaining a bit of teaching experience while still having an outlet for her own musical talents, which surfaced many years ago. Jasmine also recently helped out fellow musician Michelle Yip at both the Tea Time Concert and the APAC Choral Festival at WAB. For the Festival, Jasmine and Michelle accompanied the APAC Choir on the piano for a four-handed piece; at the Concert, Jasmine page-turned for Michelle.
"Michelle was the one who taught me how to be a good page-turner," notes Jasmine. The two musicians have known each other since Jasmine was a WAB student. "For page-turning, it is essential to understand the piece, the musician, and the performance, not to mention knowing when to stand. Michelle gives very clear instructions. She trained me very well." Jasmine was very moved when Mr. Armstrong thanked her for her assistance as a page-turner at the Tea Time Concert, referring to her as an "unsung hero." As Jasmine points out, "It is a more difficult and important skill than most think. And you don't get to enjoy the piece as much because you are so focused on your job and on one single line of the notes."
But no worries, Jasmine had plenty of time to enjoy music. Growing up in Singapore, Jasmine began playing the piano at the age of 6 and by the age of 7 she was enrolled in the Gifted Young Pianists' Programme at Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts which she attended through age 12. This arts school emphasized not only music instruction but also stage and performance etiquette and the discipline of practice, skills which Jasmine has held on to ever since.
In March 2005, Jasmine's father's job moved to Beijing and Jasmine joined Grade 10 at WAB, the highest grade-level available at that time. Thus, Jasmine was a member of the "pioneering class" who created a new grade level at WAB each time they progressed and she graduated from WAB with our first Grade 12 graduating class in 2007. She recalls the graduation at the Confucius Temple with fondness. "I just remember how spontaneous and fun the WAB staff was. The Principal and Director wore formal Chinese robes to the ceremony! It was both inspiring and a bit comical!"
Jasmine remembers that her biggest concern in transitioning to WAB from overseas was what to wear. "I was coming from schools where we always wore uniforms," she says, "I was worried about having to come up with different outfits every day for school, after 10 years of simply throwing on a school uniform! I didn't have many non-school uniform clothes at that point. " Jasmine also still clearly remembers the four principles that would guide her WAB education: "respect yourself, respect others, respect the environment, and practice responsibility and kindness."
After WAB, Jasmine attended Oxford University completing her BA in Music in June 2010, making her one of the first WAB graduates to complete a University degree. While at Oxford, Jasmine continued her study in piano and also added voice to her musical repertoire. She sang with the acapella group "The Oxford Belles" for two years, eventually becoming their musical director and touring with them internationally including a performance at New York's Madison Square Garden.
At the end of this semester, Jasmine is headed to California to continue her musical journey. She has her sights set on an internship with the San Francisco Opera, as she sees her career headed in the direction of music management and public relations. Jasmine can also see herself in the Beijing music scene again in the future.
As for her own performances on the piano and acapella, though she doesn't necessarily see herself in a full-time career as a musician or singer, she knows she will always say 'yes' to any opportunity to perform. '"My playing has always been impulsive,"' she says, '"and I know that will continue. I will keep my identity as a musician. And when I am not on-stage myself, it will be an honor to support those that are."'
Though she is headed half a world away, much of Jasmine's heart and spirit will remain here at WAB. Her younger brother, Brian, is in Grade 12, showing his own musical talent through jazz and rock, in addition to his skills at table tennis and in academics. In addition, given its overwhelmingly successful first incarnation, I suspect that Bitesize is here to stay, with a second session being planned for December.