A graduate of the New England Conservatory of Music, Shu Mei Yap has gained notoriety in both the classical and non-classical scenes in Singapore, and 16 years ago she founded the Mandeville Conservatory of Music.
When she attended during one of the first years of the Creative Strings Workshop, and she already had a history of studying jazz improvisation. I was struck by how advanced she was and how determined she was to develop her voice as a jazz artist, especially given that she lived in Singapore.
I had the privilege of helping produce her latest album, Jazz Canvas, Asian Memories.
Below is an interview that Adrian Jusdanis, another CSW participant, did with her regarding her experiences at the Creative Strings Workshop, her cross-genre approach, and what she’s been up to since the album came out.
AJ: What was your experience like attending the Creative Strings Workshop? What did you learn from it, and how did you grow as a musician?
SM: I attended two of the CSWs. It was really fun and I got to know many great string players of the alternative styles. I was very inspired and I learned a lot from everyone there. I got to try out my originals there too and it was great to have all these great players play and interpret my stuff.
AJ: The album covers many styles and genres, from traditional Chinese and Malay folk songs, hip-hop, classical, to jazz and various Latin styles, often times fused together. At what point did you begin to integrate these various traditions in your playing?
SM: Christian got me interested in this after I met him at the American String Teachers Association Conference sometime in 2006. He told me to write music that is unique to me. I am Chinese and I come from a classical background, so it is natural for me to fuse classical music and my culture into jazz.
AJ: How has your music education differed from the East to the West?
SM:There’s a lot of freedom of thoughts in the west. It was more like in the east we were told what we were supposed to do whereas in the west, we were asked how we wanted to do things.
AJ:Now that the album has been out for a little while, what are you doing?
I am playing in a band with four other girls and we play our original music and work out songs that are of interest to us. I am really happy to be playing in this band as we practice regularly. It was hard to find a band that was willing to practice even for no occasions. Besides that I am teaching as usual and running my music school
of 16 years.
to buy Shu Mei’s Jazz Canvas, Asian Memories