30 June 2013
This article was originally published in The Straits Times Life! on Friday, June 7, 2013.
Alumni of the Diploma in Music and Audio Technology course, chaired by Michael Spicer (centre), 53,
include (from left) contemporary pop violinist/singer V'Bel, also known as Wong Ay Shyuan, 20,
and alternative pop-rock band Victoria Street members Joshua Low, 20, Deborah Jean Lee, 20,
Nigel Peh, 20, Darren Tan, 20, and Spencer Teo, 21. - ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN
Wong Ay Shyuan dreams of making it as a Mando-pop violinist-singer in the region.
The 20-year-old budding musician is one step closer to her dream, thanks to her alma mater Singapore Polytechnic.
The school has started its own record label, Spear (short for "The Singapore Polytechnic Emerging Artiste and Repertoire").
Run by staff and students from its Diploma in Music and Audio Technology course, it now has four artistes on its roster. Wong, a recent graduate from the course, is one of its first signings. The budding musician, who performs under the stage name V'Bel, says: "When I was offered a chance to release my songs under Spear, I immediately said yes. In a way, by signing with them, I am showing my gratitude to my lecturers and coursemates for helping me with my music."
She will perform live at The Coliseum, Resorts World Sentosa today in a concert to mark the label's launch.
The label's first release, Spear The Launch, will be a compilation album that features original tunes from Wong and three other acts made up of fellow course graduates: pop rock outfit Victoria Street, experimental rockers Formalisms and pop singer-songwriter Celestia.
The eight-track album will be sold as digital songs at 99 US cents (S$1.20) per track through iTunes from Monday, and the label plans to release it as a CD in the future.
Course chair Michael Spicer says the label is an "educational initiative", a way for the students to integrate the different skills that they learn in the course, from music composition to audio production.
"The idea is that they work with the staff to try and make everything come together."
Describing her music as a mix of "dubstep, hip-hop, classical and orchestral rock", Wong, who started learning the violin at the age of five, is keen on using the new album as a stepping stone to the music industry.
"Studying in the school gave me a holistic education," she says. "I'm not just learning about composing music and audio technology but also how music is produced and released."
And while she is used to backing up other artists as a violinist at concerts, being an artist on the record label has made her more confident as a solo act. "I'm more comfortable now being upfront and fronting my own band of backing musicians."
The five musicians from Victoria Street, who are all either 20 or 21, formed the band as an ad-hoc outfit to play at a welcome party for freshmen who had just enrolled in their course.
Since their formation in March 2011, the band have been actively playing at the school and venues such as the Esplanade, clocking in at least one show a month.
Says guitarist Nigel Peh, 20: "Being under Spear is a big help, because they take care of a lot of the production side when it comes to recording and releasing our songs, while we focus on making music and performing." Like Wong and the other acts, Victoria Street will release their own five-song EP under Spear soon.
Mr Spicer says that the record label is funded by the course department, although he declines to reveal the initial investment. It is not a money-making venture, he adds.
Proceeds from song sales will be used for the label's ongoing expenses. While he does not rule out signing acts not affiliated to the polytechnic, he says the label will focus on course students and alumni. "In that way, Spear is a little bit unusual compared to other record labels. It's not a commercial enterprise."