INTRODUCING: A Chat with Teng Ensemble's Dr. Samuel Wong

Tucked away in a corner of Orchard Central’s Ya Kun Kaya Toast, Bandwagon had the privilege to get up close and personal with one of Singapore’s music prodigies, Dr. Samuel Wong of the Teng Ensemble. While we did not expect to ponder life's complexities with kaya and milo in Orchard Road, we sort of did. Not that we mind! Insightful and inspiring, with a mention of Adele, we share with you what we have learnt.

Lesson #1: Not everything happens with cautious planning

The Teng Ensemble, which comprises of seven Singaporean Chinese instrumentalists started out with the vision of being solely a music education company. However, opportunities rose and fate played a huge part in the development of the ensemble. What started out as playing humble live shows purely as favours for friends turned into something much bigger.

Overtime, they gained recognition and were getting personal invitations from very important people (including the Princess of Thailand!). That was when they knew this would be more than what they made it out to be. 

Lesson #2:Talents can be bred and not born with

For most parts of his life, Dr. Samuel Wong knew that he wanted to be an educator. And that is currently what he is doing full-time as his day job. At the moment, he is a lecturer at Lasalle College of the Arts, Ngee Ann Polytechnic, School of the Arts Singapore and the University of Buffalo-State University of New York programme.

It was back in Anglo-Chinese School, where Dr. Samuel Wong picked up the Pipa (which many till today have thought it to be a Chinese instrument when in actual fact, it originated from Persia). The first time he laid his hands on the instrument, he was not a natural. But the thing about prodigies is that, once they are transfixed by a particular subject matter, they can devote their entire attention and time to it. That was the case for Dr. Samuel Wong and soon enough, he was competing in various local and international competitions and clinching first place for them all.

Lesson #3: Passion, Patience & Perseverance

Nothing comes easy. We all know that. But what makes it a little easier would be the “willingness and dedication to keep trying.” Like the saying goes, you reap what you sow. And of course, it is essential to love what you do.

During our conversation, Dr. Samuel Wong reiterated at least twice with regards to how much he feels blessed and grateful for what he has now.To him, the best thing about coming this far would be “To wake up and then getting to decide what you want to do and because you are in such demand, you can have total control of your schedule. With passion, patience and perseverance, this is made possible.”

Lesson #4: Know what you are doing

When questioned about the Singapore music scene, Dr. Samuel Wong agrees with us that it is indeed flourishing. However, he has realized that “These bands and musicians lack proper training in terms of skill set and techniques. Hence, there is a lack of quality sometimes.”

He adds that the best advice he can give to all the aspiring musicians out there would be, “Know what you are doing and be very sure of it. If you are familiar with your subject matter, like knowing your instrument backwards and forwards inside out, you can go on stage.”

Lesson #5: “Don’t get inspired by things, get inspired by sound”

For Dr. Samuel Wong and the ensemble, composing and writing music involves “a series of experimentation”. Many musicians these days are very much inspired by their own emotions. “For example, Grammy Award Winner Adele, she wrote because she was heartbroken,” says Dr. Wong.

“But music isn’t just about feelings or emotions,” he continued. The Teng Ensemble gets their inspiration from a myriad of things, ranging from uncommonly known genres to textures as well!

And finally, Dr. Samuel Wong tells us the best way to live life to the fullest:

“As long as you laugh every day, smile and be happy, that’s a highlight (in your life). As long you remain true to yourself.”

SÙ-ABODE by Teng Ensemble is on, at the Esplanade Recital Studio this Sunday (4th March 2012), 4pm & 7:30pm.