Winner of the Musicians Institute’s Full Ride Scholarship, Singaporean and City Harvest member Er Chow Kiat is ready to see his dreams soar in Hollywood.
Inspired by the movie That Thing You Do, Er Chow Kiat, 24 who was just 7 years old when the popular film came out, developed an interest in drumming that only grew with each passing year.
That “hobby” has now turned into a full-blown passion which recently earned him a US$48,000 scholarship to study in the acclaimed music school the Musicians Institute in Los Angeles, California, USA.
In preparation for the Full Ride Scholarship offered by the school, Er, 23, had to submit a Youtube video of himself playing an approved piece. The top eight drummers then went through a round of voting by an audience. The five most popular were flown to Hollywood for a final round of auditions. During his audition, Er had to perform two approved songs, the jazz classics “Caravan” and “The Chicken”. He only had two rehearsals in two days to get both drum solos right.
“It all happened so fast,” he recalls in his interview with City News. “There was a rehearsal in the morning, then in the afternoon, then it was the audition. I had the opportunity to play with an all star sectionists in LA too. It was a very enriching experience.”
Had he not won this scholarship, Er says that he would have returned to his school, LASALLE College of the Arts to obtain a music degree. But his desire all along had been to enter MI, so that he would be able to meet musicians from all around the world and expand his musical horizons.
Following his passion for drumming was not an easy decision for Er, who dreams of starting a drum school one day. At the age of 13, he picked up drums and the trumpet when he joined the band in secondary school, but apart from that, he has never had any formal drum training. What he did do was to diligently study drumming techniques through websites, and practiced using instructional videos from the Internet. The more he played, the more Er felt he wanted to turn his talent into a career. However, he was always concerned about the stability of income for drummers, and it was a barrier to his pursuit.
The Turning Point
It all changed for Er one day as he sat in a service preached by Pastor Kong Hee, about seven years ago. In the service, Kong preached about seeking the higher calling by doing what one loves, and Er gained the courage to make a firm decision to follow his passion. Since then, he has never looked back. After obtaining his GCE ‘O’ Levels, Er was “accepted in LASALLE, and then everything just snowballed.”
Besides the formal musical education he received at LASALLE, Er also learned how things work in the music industry, how to run a show, and what it was really like to be drumming for a living. What he couldn’t learn in school, Er sought to learn through his interaction with others.
What challenges does he face while pursuing his love for drumming? Er replies that becoming a good drummer is not hard, “you just have to practice more.” However, his concern is the lack of job opportunities. Singapore is a small country with limited drumming jobs, unlike the US. Thus Er is aware that he will get less work than his American counterparts, and so he has to think about how to take his music out of Singapore, out of the region.
Er’s hunger to keep learning is palpable. When asked what separates a good drummer from a great one, he explains that “the ability to keep learning and improving is important for one to develop.” He gave the example of his favorite drummers like Steve Jordan and Benny Greb are “always learning and writing stuff” and how they always play “great music, music that inspires.” Er is impressed by the number of hours Jordan puts into practicing drums.
For Er, who left Singapore for LA in late March to begin his scholarship, “it has always been drums… It was mainly from the show (That Thing You Do). I think I like the rhythm, the beat [best].” Up to the point he departed, Er was a valued member of the CHC music team—he regularly served on stage during services.
LA will be a totally different environment for the 24-year-old, but Er has decided to give himself time to adjust to the culture and living in Hollywood. “I will take it as it comes,” he says.