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Playing past his insecurities
DOUBTS plague us all. For jazz pianist Tan Wei Xiang who will be holding his first solo concert on July 23, these doubts manifested themselves into his professional career, to a point where he felt he just wasn't good enough.
The 37-year-old explains: "I had this deep insecurity and felt the work I did didn't live up to my unrealistic standards, and that reflected itself in many forms, some of which were destructive. But at this stage of my career, I've come to the realisation that the work that we artists do surpasses my petty concerns and is beautiful - in spite of, and also because of - its imperfections."
He adds: "This concert pretty much marks a milestone for me, as it's a compilation of my songs that have meant something to me at some point of my career. It's a personal statement, and one I've prepared 15 years for."
Encouraged to learn the organ and classical piano by his parents in his teens, Tan ended his formal training when he entered National Service, but kept his interest in music alive by playing in concert bands and listening to classical music throughout his teens.
While at NUS, he took part in a jazz band gig at popular bar Harry's in Boat Quay. He recalls: "I was playing trombone, but the pianist didn't show up at the gig. I stepped in for him, and played everything in the repertoire from memory."
Though trained in law, he never really pursued it, stating: "I found myself being really happy, and more importantly, successful and good at jazz."
To further his career, Tan relocated to New York in 2007, and is still based there.
He notes: "It became clear to me that if I wanted to progress to higher artistic levels, I had to get out of Singapore. New York was a humbling city to move to, and it put me in my place very quickly but also made me very serious about what I did. I lived music for three whole years, and I don't think you can get that kind of immersion at the highest level anywhere else."
Tan believes the jazz scene in Singapore can grow further with some extra support. He points out: "We have a huge legacy of jazz musicians. Some people believe jazz falls under entertainment while others strongly believe in the sanctity of it as an art from. I actually kind of like both. I think for the scene to grow, we need to encourage both ends of the spectrum by setting up more venues and having more musicians play at these venues."
- Tan Wei Xiang will perform alongside his piano trio Wei lll on July 23 at 7.30pm at the Esplanade Recital Studio