2021 SCHOLARSHIP RECIPIENTS
AARON JAMES LEE
Aaron James Lee is an up-and-coming musician in the Singapore music scene. Having started playing drums at the tender age of four, he has since attained a refined and mature sensibility towards his craft despite only being in his twenties.
The son of musical veterans, Aaron was raised in a musical family. This has afforded him the opportunity to grow up and perform with musicians he considers national treasures including Don Gomes, Christy Smith, Joshua Wan, Andrew Lim, Weixiang Tan, Soh Wen Ming, Chok Kerong and Jeremy Monteiro.
Aaron had his start professionally at a very young age when he won the Singapore Drumfest Drum Challenge Asia in the under-12 category. Since then, he has played at ChildAid 2009 and 2010, and made his mark both internationally and locally in the jazz and R&B scenes as the drummer for local acid-jazz outfit The Steve McQueens.
Aaron has also worked with international acts which have come through Singapore, including James Moody, Alex Sipiagin, and Tony Lakatos, and has been mentored by drummer Jason Brown. He has worked with the founder of acid-jazz supergroup Incognito, Blue Jean Paul Maunick, at Livingston Studios where the band recorded their first full-length album. Aaron, together with the band, also performed at The O2 in London, Indonesia's Java Jazz Festival, Tokyo's Summer Sonic Festival and Singapore's Mosaic Music Festival.
With JASSYO!, Aaron was one of the youth musicians selected to perform in the Lion City Youth Jazz Festivals in 2018 and 2019, where he played under the tutelage of drumming legends, Lewis Nash and Justin Faulkner. More recently, he participated in Esplanade's Jazz in July 2020, as part of a duo, with Aya Sekine on the piano.
Aaron will be commencing his studies at LASALLE College of the Arts in August 2021, where he will be majoring in Jazz Performance.
2009 was the pivotal year in Sam Kong's life, as this was when he first discovered his immense passion for music and drumming at the age of 13. As a student in Coral Secondary School, he joined the Concert Band as a percussionist, which opened his eyes to the many possibilities of a future in the music industry.
Determined to learn and play the music on his instrument of choice- the drum- he honed his craft through practice and classes and has since built a strong foundation towards mastering this instrument.
Following his calling, Sam joined the Singapore Polytechnic Jazz Band upon his enrolment in the school, under the tutelage of Joshua Wan. This marked the second crucial point in his musical journey, as his introduction to the jazz genre gave him a clear direction of the musical styles he wanted to pursue, and solidified his ambition. Besides being inspired by renowned drummers like Lawrence Leathers, Philly Joe Jones and Tony Williams, Sam has since been learning from fellow music-enthusiasts, musicians and mentors, and has had the privilege of sharing his passion with them. In 2020, he participated in the "Mosaic Jazz Fellows" programme where he sharpened his skills under the mentorship of Joshua Wan, Andrew Lim, Chok Kerong and Soh Wen Ming.
Sam has also been performing at various gigs and concerts to gain industry experience over the years, proving his dedication towards music in general and jazz in particular. Very involved in the local music scene, he has also played on numerous prominent platforms including The Esplanade.
Since completing his national service in 2019, Sam has participated in jam sessions held at Maduro and Blu Jaz Cafe. He is currently doing a fortnightly live-stream show with his band Litmus Jazz Ensemble.
Besides performing, Sam shares his love of music and jazz with others by conducting lessons, and has been working as a drum teacher at The Music Lab since 2016.
He has been accepted into LASALLE College of the Arts, where he will be commencing his studies in August 2021, majoring in Jazz Performance.
2020 SCHOLARSHIP RECIPIENT
After picking up the classical guitar at the age of 12, Ernest developed a strong passion for creating and sharing the joy of music through his co-curricular activities in the St Patrick's School Guitar Ensemble. He was a member of the ensemble when it received the school’s first ever Certificate of Distinction in the Singapore Youth Festival in 2013.
At the age of 17, Ernest enrolled in Singapore Polytechnic to pursue a Diploma in Music and Audio Technology. During his time at the polytechnic, Ernest discovered the genre of jazz and felt an immediate connection with the music due to its cultural history and the humanity inherent in the genre. American jazz guitarists Peter Bernstein and Bobby Broom were two of the biggest influences in Ernest’s development as a guitarist. Bernstein’s ability to tell a story with the complexity of his melodies captivated Ernest and brought him closer to jazz, while Broom’s raw and soulful lyricism resonated with Ernest.
Upon his graduation, as an alumnus of the Singapore Polytechnic Jazz Band, Ernest was placed under the mentorship and guidance of industry veteran, pianist-bassist-composer-producer Joshua Wan. With the latter’s guidance, Ernest has since performed at numerous venues such as The Esplanade and Blu Jaz Cafe.
Ernest is currently pursuing his bachelor’s degree in Jazz Performance at LASALLE College of the Arts. His long-term goal is to use jazz as a medium of expression to reflect our times and depict our struggles and celebrations in life.
2019 SCHOLARSHIP RECIPIENTS
RIT XU KAI XIANG
Rit was raised in multi-cultural Singapore in a musical family. His late father was a professional musician who gave him a head start by exposing him to all genres of Western music, alongside traditional music influences from his mother. His love for jazz was sealed at age 16 when he heard the late great trumpeter Lee Morgan playing “Blue Train” on a famous John Coltrane album. Even though it was on the trumpet, Rit was determined to learn and play the music on his instrument of choice- the flute.
Rit Xu burst onto the Singapore jazz scene in 2011 after winning the Thailand International Jazz Solo Competition. An award-winning flutist, composer, educator and recording artist, he has been gaining international recognition for his lyrical, thoughtful and introspective musical voice on the flute since he won the National Flute Association (NFA) Jazz Artist Competition in 2014, making him the first Southeast Asian to win a solo jazz competition in the United States.
While Rit is an honours graduate in classical flute performance from the famed Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music at the National University of Singapore, it is his keen focus on shaping improvised melodies drawing influence from notable trumpeters, saxophonists and practitioners of the jazz tradition, that makes him an instantly recognisable performer.
In 2019, he was awarded the JASS Music Scholarship (International) to study towards a Master's degree in Jazz Studies. With support from the Scholarship programme, Rit has recently completed his studies at the Aaron Copland School of Music, Queens College NY.
In recent years, he was prominently featured with the Swiss Youth Jazz Orchestra at the annual Jazzaar Festival led by jazz stalwart Fritz K Renold. He also made his debut with the Asian Youth Jazz Orchestra’s inaugural performances in Southeast Asia. In addition, Rit is an integral sideman with jazz icon Jeremy Monteiro and a key member of the Lorong Boys, a classical-pop fusion group which shot to fame on social media with their humorous and light-hearted juxtaposition of classical music and top-40 hits.
Rit is also a first-call flutist in the studio recording scene, bringing with him a wealth of experience inside the recording booth laying down flute tracks to television commercials, films, video games, documentaries, and pop music albums since the age of nine. He played all the flute solos in the soundtrack of Taiwanese movie, “Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale,” which won the 48th Golden Horse Award for best original film score.
As a passionate music educator, Rit has been teaching the fundamentals to finer points of flute-playing since 2008. He founded www.flutelessons.sg in 2016 and has made it his mission to inspire others to share his love for music and the flute.
BRYAN DE ROZARIO
At the tender age of nine, Bryan started his musical journey when he picked up the bass guitar, studying under Singaporean Bassist Din Safari.
Bryan was not a great bass player in the beginning, but it set the foundation for the rest of his journey. At the age of 13, he joined the St Patrick’s School Military Band and picked up the saxophone. It was during his time in the band that he realised the saxo- phone was the instrument for him.
Bryan ventured into jazz when he joined the Singapore Polytechnic Jazz Band. It was there that he met other passionate musicians, and through them, started his music career. He has since played for artists such as Tim De Cotta and T-Rex, a progressive metal band.
During his national service, he was part of the Singapore Armed Forces Band. It was also while serving the nation that Bryan auditioned and was selected to join the Jazz Association Youth Orchestra (JASSYO!) for the very first Lion City Youth Jazz Festival in 2017. There, he performed with other youth musicians alongside the legendary Benny Golson, and other distinguished musicians who served as mentors- Alex Sipiagin, Eijiro Nakagawa, Dave Newdick, Hong Chanutr Techatana-Nan and Tony Lakatos, and the festival’s Guest Music Director, Fritz K Renold.
Subsequently, Bryan was selected to be in the Mosaic Jazz Fellows (formerly Bright Young Things) jazz mentorship programme organised by the Esplanade Singapore, which helped him further hone his skills. He then had the opportunity to play with other esteemed professional musicians, including jazz alto saxophonist Antonio Hart, at the 2nd Lion City Youth Jazz Festival in May 2018. He went on to represent Singapore in London as a member of JASSYO! when the orchestra was invited to perform at the EFG London Jazz Festival in November 2018.
Bryan is currently studying at LASALLE College of the Arts, majoring in Jazz Performance.
2018 SCHOLARSHIP RECIPIENTS
John Koh, a graduate of the prestigious Berklee College of Music, is a jazz double bass player and composer. John's pursuit of music began when he first picked up the bass at the age of 13, while living in Shanghai. He soon joined his middle school orchestra and not long after was selected by blind audition to travel to Vienna to perform at the Association for Music in International Schools (AMIS) Honor Orchestra Festival. He was then selected for every consecutive year to perform at the annual AMIS festivals and ended up playing at seven global-scale youth music events, performing at festivals held in Waterloo, Shanghai, Zurich, Dusseldorf, Beijing, and Singapore.
While in high school, John lived in Tokyo, where he formed his own trio and performed at local jazz clubs. Upon his graduation in 2015, he returned to Singapore to enlist in the Singapore Armed Forces to serve his mandatory conscription. During his time in the military, John recorded in Singaporean pianist Weixiang Tan's album, "Wei III." It was also during this time that he performed at the first and second Lion City Youth Jazz Festivals, the first featuring legendary jazz saxophonist, Benny Golson, and the second featuring legendary trumpeter, Randy Brecker.
In 2018, John became the first recipient of the JASS Music Scholarship programme when he was awarded the JASS Music Scholarship (International) to study towards a Bachelor's degree in Jazz Studies. He enrolled at the Berklee College of Music under the mentorship of bassists Michael Pope and John Lockwood, and drummer, Ralph Peterson, who handpicked John to play alongside him at the Bern Jazz Festival in 2019.
During his time at Berklee, John also played in Jason Palmer's band every week for a period of time. He has also recorded in Malaysian pianist Foo Jeng Wong's debut album, "Quiet Night Thoughts."
Throughout John's musical career, he has been under the mentorship of Singaporean jazz pianist and Cultural Medallion recipient, Jeremy Monteiro.
John's philosophy toward all his musical endeavours and productions are to give God all the glory in everything that he does.
Singaporean jazz vocalist and singer/songwriter Dawn Wong has come a long way since she debuted on Channel U's television talent search competition Project Superstar 2, performing at the Thailand International Jazz Festival 2018 in Chiang Rai (Thailand), the Singapore International Jazz Festival, and more.
Dawn hopes to develop her version of Singaporean jazz, inspired by her unique home that is at once a multi-cultural melting pot and global city. In 2016, Dawn launched her first full length album of Mandarin jazz originals with a concert presented by Singapore's landmark arts centre, The Esplanade. The whimsical album "Marco Lopo" contains songs about imaginary worlds and features some of Singapore's top names in jazz, ethnic instruments (Sitar and Tabla), and world percussion by New York-based Japanese percussionist Keita Ogawa (Snarky Puppy). To promote this album, Dawn tool her band 'The Ark Royal' on tour to Taiwan in 2015 and 2016 with a grant from the National Arts Council of Singapore.
Apart from originals and English jazz standards, Dawn keeps the jazz tradition alive as the vocalist for classic mandarin jazz band 'The Shanghai Jazz Club' which has performed full house shows at the Esplanade Concourse, Sing Jazz Club (closed), Montreux Jazz Café (Singapore), and to enthusiastic reception from audiences at the Silver Arts Festival and Arts in Your Neighbourhood series.
In addition to performing, Dawn assumes the roles of creative producer and arts manager to help others fulfil their artistic visions and conducts workshops in MOE schools to introduce the next generation of Singaporeans to different facets of music.
Dawn has completed her studies and obtained her Bachelor's Degree in Performing Arts (Music) as a jazz vocal major at LASALLE College of the Arts (Singapore). She also has a Bachelor's Degree in Commerce (with Distinction) from the University of New South Wales (Australia).