In our get-to-know music instructors series, we get up close with Kelvin. Kelvin teaches the acoustic and the electric guitar at Ritmo Music Studio. Kelvin began his music journey young when his father, a professional musician, exposed him to the behind-the-scenes and rehearsals of live performances at work. His father also enrolled him on a music school as a child. The first musical instrument he learnt was the organ, although what he really wanted to learn was the guitar.
1. What was the first musical instrument you wanted to learn?
I was sent to learn the organ as a child, but I was not interested. I wanted to play the guitar but my father said my hands were too small to handle the guitar and at that time, small-sized guitars were not common.
2. When did you start learning the guitar?
I picked up the acoustic guitar when I was 14 years old. I happened to start playing with the acoustic guitar because my brother owned one. I borrowed it and taught myself how to play. For the first four years, I was self-taught. I did enrol in a music school for a year but I went back to teaching myself to play.
3. How did you start your career in music?
I started performing when I was 18. After national service, I joined a music band competition by Mediacorp. Then we went all the way to the finals and from then on I performed all the way. I had opportunities to perform on the stage. We were one of the guest artists at the Singapore Idol. We played at three new year countdowns for Mediacorp. We also played at the Indoor Stadium and Expo. I was still very young then, in my early 20s, so I considered myself lucky.
4. What did you do after your contract with Mediacorp ended?
After my contract with Mediacorp ended, I started playing night gigs full-time until Covid-19. I was part of the St. James group and played in different venues for 5 to 6 years. Prior to Covid 19 restrictions I was playing at bistros. I performed mostly with the electric guitar. I also performed at events such as the music festival in Taiwan.
5. Do you have a favourite genre of music and do you admire any guitarist?
I have no favourite genre because I play everything from jazz to heavy metal to funk and R&B. I don’t restrict myself to any genres. Music to me is a form of self-expression. My favourite guitarists are John Mayer because of his technique and Johnathan Kreisberg who plays jazz. Because I have no favourite genres, I do not have a preference over the electric or the acoustic guitar.
6. You mentioned going back to school in your mid-30s, what caused you to make the decision?
I attended LaSalle School of Music when I was 34, enrolling in the Diploma course. After graduating from the diploma course, I continued my music education with a Bachelor’s Degree at LaSalle. I have been playing music in the night scene for the last 13 years. I wanted to improve myself and to experience what music education is like in a college. Such as how it’s taught in a college as compared to a music school at Yamaha. I also pursued an education in music so that I can teach better.
7. What would you say to a beginner who is torn between learning the acoustic and the electric guitar?
To a beginner who is torn between learning an acoustic or an electric guitar, I would like to say they are both similar. Although an electric guitar has more techniques while an acoustic guitar is harder to press. I would say a beginner can start on either one but it depends on their interest as well. If a beginner likes rock or heavy metal then there is no point starting with an acoustic guitar. But if like me, you like all genres, then you can start on either the acoustic or the electric guitar.
8. Do you have any aspirations for your music journey in the near future?
I would like to start a music composition in the near future when the conditions are right. It would be a composition focused more on jazz with improvisations to allow musicians to express themselves and to experiment. That would be my goal for the future.