Amber Tsang on Music Making, Representation, and her debut album "Autumn Nocturne"
All photos by Saphren Ma
Amber Tsang (she/her) is a young, up-and-coming jazz musician based in Vancouver, B.C. She is currently finishing up her Bachelor of Music in Jazz at Capilano University and looking forward to completing her Bachelor of Education next year at UBC. She grew up playing classical piano, then branched out to playing trumpet in jazz ensembles, and eventually, began singing in choirs and as a soloist. Amber aspires to encourage representation and equality with her music for young women of colour in the Vancouver jazz scene.
1) How did you get into singing and playing music? Any defining moments?
My mom had me start taking piano lessons when I was just three years old. I continued taking lessons as I got older and at the time, struggled to recognize or appreciate its value. Looking back at it now, I cannot thank my mom enough for encouraging me to stick with it through high school. It has helped my singing and ear development in many ways, and I can’t imagine where I’d be now without it. It felt like singing came naturally to me because I had played the piano for most of my life and developed a strong musical foundation.
Early on in highschool, I was very involved in the band and jazz band program playing the trumpet. Playing in a big band was, and still is one of my favourite musical settings and I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to continue playing trumpet through my time in university.
Later in high school, I only began singing in choir because a friend insisted that I join. I even remember thinking that choir was so silly because they did all these weird warm ups! Little did I know, doing strange warm ups would become part of my career as a singer! From there, I grew to love choral and vocal jazz ensembles and eventually, singing as a soloist. Being a solo classical pianist can be lonely at times, so singing and playing music with an ensemble is one of my favourite things about choir and jazz ensembles. I felt like I belonged to these communities and it’s where I’ve met many of my closest friends. One of the main reasons I decided to pursue jazz as a vocalist is because the jazz community is all about collaborating and building connections with others, and it has pushed me out of my comfort zone as a singer.
2) Who are your musical influences - either in jazz or other genres?
“Autumn Nocturne” is heavily influenced by one of my favourite artists, Diana Panton. She is an amazing Canadian jazz singer, and the way she phrases melodies and delivers lyrics are only a few reasons why I love her music. A few influences that contribute to my overall jazz style would be Ella Fitzgerald, Cyrille Aimee, and Chet Baker. Other artists I draw influences from, include singer/songwriter Sara Bareilles, Joni Mitchell and my favourite band, Lake Street Dive.
3) What was the inspiration behind your album "Autumn Nocturne" and what was the process like leading up to its release? Do you have a favourite track from the album?
Alvin and I met while we were doing our degrees at Capilano and we have been playing music together ever since. We’ve always known that we wanted to put some music out there, so last summer we began brainstorming some of our favourite standards we enjoy playing together. From there, it felt like things just kept rolling until suddenly it was time to record! The day we spent recording was a brand new experience for me as I’ve never recorded in a studio before. The nerves were definitely there, but overall it was such an amazing and thrilling experience to be able to play in that environment with friends.
I have so many favourite tracks on the album! But if I had to choose one, it would probably be “Tricotism”. This was definitely the track that I was most nervous about, but it ended up being the most fun to play!
4) Is there anything you'd like to say to young people of marginalized identities in jazz?
When I was younger, I remember hoping to see someone playing in a jazz show or a professor at music school that I could really relate to. This made it difficult for me to imagine what opportunities were possible in the jazz community as a young, Asian, female vocalist. Although, in the Vancouver jazz community, there are so many remarkable female jazz musicians that have motivated me to become the role model that I desire. For young people especially, I think it’s important to remember that everyone deserves equality and representation within a community. I would want to tell other marginalized identities in jazz to strive to become the role model you hope for and to never let anyone make you forget the reason you got into music in the first place!
5) Are there any upcoming projects or shows you would like to plug? Where can we find you online?
Alvin and I will be playing a show on January 24th at Second Floor Gastown, Water St. Cafe to promote our debut album! Head over to https://ambertsangalvinbrendan.bandcamp.com/releases to purchase and listen to “Autumn Nocturne”!
With the links below you can find me on Facebook and Instagram!
Or visit my website at https://ambertsangmusic.wixsite.com/website