2 December 2016: Students by day, artists by night, Yale-NUS students take on promising careers in the arts

By Daryl Yang | Images as credited

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Lek Haokai with his band, Sphaeras. Image by Jeremy Hu, Bandwagon

While most of his peers might be travelling over the summer break in 2017 to catch a breather from school, Lek Haokai (Class of 2018) will also be travelling – and not simply for leisure. Aside from being a hardworking student enrolled in the Double Degree Programme with NUS Law, Haokai is the lead guitarist of Sphaeras, an instrumental band.

“I will be touring with my band to Japan and Taiwan to develop our fan base regionally,” he shared, and mentioned that the group also has plans to tour North America and/or Europe in future.

Since the band formed in 2013, there have been many significant milestones.

“We formed in 2013 with the intention of taking part in Baybeats 2014 – which was our first big milestone. Given the prestige of Baybeats as a local music festival, many performance opportunities ensued which meant a steadily increasing fan base and more recognition in the scene,” Haokai shared.

In May 2015, the band released their debut album Moirai, with help from a National Arts Council’s grant, which had a sold-out album release show. Other milestones include opening for renowned international acts like Toe and Tricot.

This part-time pursuit of professional careers is not rare at Yale-NUS College, where students are encouraged to explore and develop their passions and talents.

Another such student is Min Lim (Class of 2018). A freelance designer, Min set up her portfolio online recently and has since been approached by many clients ranging from the public service to large private companies. Some of her previous clients include the Ministry of Education (Singapore) and the Singapore Anti-Narcotics Association (SANA). She is also an active member of the Yale-NUS Visual Arts Society (VAS).

“I’ve always been the type of person to only involve myself in things I enjoy doing, and want to improve in. VAS was an obvious option since freshmen year as I’ve always loved graphic design and have always wanted to work on my traditional art,” said Min.

One of her most memorable experiences was hosting Photoshop Workshops with the group.

“It was the first time (since it began last semester) that I started teaching Photoshop, even though I’ve had nearly 12 years of experience with the software,” she shared. “I didn’t realise how much I enjoyed teaching it, and how fulfilling it is when I see my students visibly improve in front of me. This is something I hope to explore in the future.”

Min, who says she did not expect to be so involved in the arts as she has been at Yale-NUS, is active at VAS, The Improv Comedy Conglomerate, and INK: The Literary Collective.

“I like that I’m growing and improving this part of myself, while being able to give back to the community at the same time,” Min said.

Most recently, together with other Yale-NUS students interested in design, Min co-founded TANDEM, a designers’ guild founded under the philosophy of making quality design accessible to all.

“I’ve personally worked as a freelance graphic designer for nearly 5-6 years now. I realise that initially, it is very difficult to gain a regular client-base, especially if you’re only doing this on an ad-hoc basis without qualifications like a diploma in design,” she explained. “As such, I wanted to create an organisation that can provide a platform for aspiring designers to gain professional exposure and experience – hence TANDEM.”

For Yee Jia Rong (Class of 2018), being in Yale-NUS has similarly contributed both artistically and administratively to his artistic endeavours as a theatre practitioner. As managing director of Couch Theatre, a theatre company founded in 2013 together with his peers in junior college, Jia Rong is responsible for the administrative management of the company. Another Yale-NUS student, Ziyad bin Ahmad Bagharib (Class of 2018) is also a co-founder of the company.

“Artistically, watching theatre efforts in our very own Black Box… as well as having conversations with the people involved in the artistic design of these productions, gave me fresh ideas on how to manipulate sound in newer and better ways for the projects my team was working on,” he elaborated.

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Yee Jia Rong (far left) and Ziyad bin Ahmad Bagharib (far right) are part of the team that founded Couch Theatre. Image provided by Couch Theatre

Jia Rong describes the college administration as “extremely supportive” of theatre efforts, from the Arts & Media team in availing facilities and equipment for rehearsals, to funding support from the Arts Fund.

“Not to forget the Yale-NUS students themselves; many individuals who didn’t know much about theatre or who weren’t particularly drawn to it nevertheless took the time (and money) out to come to support!” he added.

Similarly, Haokai shared that being in Yale-NUS has helped in his musical career because of the chances to meet other students who are also passionate about the arts.

“For example, one of my band’s music videos was filmed by Dynn Othman, a junior who also happens to be a talented filmmaker. The Yale-NUS environment is fertile for spontaneous collaborative projects like this to occur,” he reflected.