By Xener Gill
You are sitting in a lecture theatre, staring at the clock and counting each second that passes, wondering what your life might have been like if you had pursued your dreams instead. If you weren’t chasing a paper qualification and could do what you truly loved, perhaps you could have been a DJ, or a painter, or an emcee by now.
These are the lives of three NTU students who are making those dreams their reality.
What started out as a simple pastime is now 23-year-old Chawit Tangsucharitvichit’s potential career.
Better known as DJ CAITH, Chawit started exploring the music scene at the age of 17 when he took interest in DJ-ing.
“Seeing DJs perform and watching them make the crowd go wild — I wanted to do that too,” he said.
Then in junior college, he learnt the basics by watching videos of DJs and used a free desktop application to practice his DJ skills. He also picked up beat-matching — the synchronising of tempos in two different recordings — by imitating DJs he watched online.
Despite not having the financial means to attend classes, he was able to get professional feedback on his music by reaching out to individuals in the industry who were willing to help.
His parents were initially unwilling to support him financially as they were concerned that it might be a passing fancy.
However, a year later, Chawit’s interest in DJ-ing still showed no signs of waning. Persuaded, his parents bought him his first DJ console.
When he was 19, prominent local DJ TINC took him under her wing at DJ management company This Beat Is Sick (TBIS) after he emailed her for DJ-ing classes.
Though he used to spin fortnightly for the company at Cherry Discotheque in Orchard, Chawit spins less frequently now as he is focusing on music production.
He said: “DJ-ing is about playing songs made by other people, but production allows you to be more creative.”
Despite his keen interest in music, Chawit is currently a second-year School of Materials Science and Engineering student.
“When I applied for university, my grades weren’t good enough to enter the School of Art, Design and Media (ADM). Since I was in the science stream in JC, I decided to continue,” he said.
While he does not mind studying engineering, he said that given a choice, he would have preferred to pursue music instead.
To balance out the engineering modules that he takes in school, Chawit often takes music-related electives in ADM such as Sound Art, which provides an understanding of sound as an artistic medium.
While he is actively developing his music production career, he would not mind settling for a job in engineering.
“I’m open to possibilities but music is still ultimately my dream,” he said.
The art prodigy
21-year-old Dawn Kwan started painting at the age of five, has had eight solo art exhibitions to her name and has raised almost $500,000 for charity through art auctions and donations.
The second-year Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information student said: “My parents started me young to develop in me a strong sense of compassion for the disadvantaged through art.”
Kwan draws inspiration for her art from human bodies, dance, nature, bold colors and other artists. Besides painting, she also dabbles in ceramics — during her latest exhibition, which was held last August at the Ion Art Gallery, all her ceramic pieces were sold out.
However, it was not always easy to pursue her passion.
“There were times that I felt like giving up as it was very difficult for my parents to support this talent,” she said. Painting is an expensive hobby to fund due to the costly materials required, and artworks are time-consuming to create.
“Many times, my artworks were sold at much less than what I felt the painting was worth, due to the time and effort that I spent on it.”
She decided to take up a communications degree, as her parents wanted her to pursue a degree that would ensure her financial stability in the future.
“A communications degree is probably the closest academic degree to art, so I chose to pursue it and to specialise in advertising,” said Kwan.
She added: “Advertising and fine art both involve processes of ideation and execution of ideas through artistic skills, but I think advertising limits me because I have to fulfill a client’s requirements and opinions.”
In school, Kwan puts her artistic skills to use by taking design modules such as Print and Digital Publication, which covers the fundamentals of newspaper and magazine design.
However, she regards her degree as a safety net and intends on pursuing art as a career in the future. She hopes to set up her own studio in the next five years where she can practice and teach art.
“To me, success involves recognising, creating and sharing art and beauty, which I think I will be able to achieve best through pursuing art.”
Chemist with a flair for speaking
Angelene Singh graduated from the School of Chemistry and Biological Chemistry last semester. However, unlike her peers who landed jobs in the science industry, she is now working as a freelance emcee.
“I was never really the shy type so I didn’t struggle with speaking or presenting in front of an audience,” said the 24-year-old, whose first time emceeing was for an awards ceremony when she was in Primary Six.
She continued emceeing for school events in secondary school, then began taking on emcee jobs when she was in polytechnic.
With five years of experience under her belt, Angelene has had the chance to emcee for international events like the 28th SEA Games, and has rubbed shoulders with prominent people like Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
However, Angelene was never formally trained as an emcee. Instead, most of her schooling years were spent in the laboratory.
“My parents were not supportive of me pursuing a communications diploma, so I studied Chemical and Pharmaceutical Technology instead,” she said. She continued studying Chemistry in university for the same reason.
While Angelene is not discounting the possibility of a science career, she is focusing on developing her career in the media industry.
Though she enjoys the creativity that chemistry allows in areas such as forensic science and food science, there are high risks if mistakes are made.
On the other hand, she enjoys the spontaneity of being an emcee, as she can express herself freely without such high stakes.
Angelene intends to continue freelance emceeing, but hopes to eventually transition to TV or radio presenting.
She said: “It is very rewarding when people from the audience stop you to say that you’re doing a good job and that they are enjoying themselves because of you.”