International student wins Academic Achievement Award: Singapore

Congratulations to Jason Chong, winner of the Academic Achievement Award for Audio in Melbourne. Jason has just completed his Bachelor Degree and we caught up with him for a chat before he returns home to Singapore.

1. Where did your interest in Audio engineering start?

I've always been interested in audio engineering for the longest time, since I was 14 actually. I started dabbling with the sound equipment in church when I was growing up and soon got pretty good at handling the equipment, primarily by trial and error and praying hard that nothing would blow up! After completing my GCE 'O' levels at 16, I was seriously contemplating a career in audio engineering but there weren't any suitable schools in Singapore, so I went for my next passion, design. My design course offered film electives and since I was one of the few guys in the course who actually knew how to operate the recording system in school, I became the go-to guy for any post-production work on film projects. During this time I started dabbling with music composition and songwriting, and I worked primarily as the composer and audio engineer for most of my group film projects. My lecturers saw that I had a huge potential in this field and encouraged me to pursue it after I graduated, which I did.

2. Why did you choose Australia, and why JMC?

One of my design course lecturers ran a recording facility and I had the chance to speak to him about careers in audio. He mentioned that one of the engineers who was working under him attended JMC Academy in Australia, and that engineer was actually quite good at what he did. I did my research on the school and was quite impressed with JMC's approach in education compared to other audio schools. What caught my attention the most was being able to work with students from across other disciplines. While some schools were specialised audio schools, the unique mix of courses in JMC allowed students to work with one another across disciplines.

3. What has been your favourite experience in Australia?

I've experienced so many things that I can't pinpoint just one favourite experience. But if I have to answer, it’s probably the festivals in Australia, e.g. Moomba, St Kilda Music Festival, White Night Festival etc. Where they have whole streets blocked off with performances at every street junction. I remember walking through the White Night Festival and I walked in the middle of the tram tracks all the way from the State Library down to Flinders Street Station! Other than that, I think living in a different country and especially a country like Australia has been quite an experience so far. I feel that experiences are there to enrich one's life and just immersing myself in the Australian way of life has changed my own life in significant ways.

4. What do you hope to do after you graduate?

I'm planning to set up my own music production company in Singapore, where I'm from. I had a couple of job opportunities here in Australia but I've always wanted to work in the music scene back home and around the Asian region, so moving back was the wisest choice for my career.

5. What work experience have you done while studying?

I've done a fair bit of work experience since I started my course. I was mixing in music venues across Melbourne in 2011 as a freelance sound engineer. In 2012, I joined a songwriting team and we started writing and producing music for a 3-girl pop group in Melbourne, targeting the Japanese market. We had 2 Japanese writers on board who wrote in Japanese and we produced a 5-track EP with songs in both English and Japanese. I got the chance to work in of some of Melbourne's biggest studios and on some of the best equipment out there, which was a great experience for me.

In 2013, I started working with a local entertainment company and we got involved in a project in Vietnam. I wrote and produced a dance/pop single for a duo in Vietnam which was released at the end of September 2013. A day after the single got released, it went to Number 1 on an indie chart in the US for 2 weeks! The music video has also premiered on both Vietnamese and Australian TV. SBS Pop Asia had the music video running for a while on their playlist. I also got involved with the very first Korean Cultural Festival in Melbourne. I was on board as a technical consultant for the production side and during the event I handled the show calling alongside the stage manager.

I also started working at the Arts Centre Melbourne casually as an AV technician. I picked up valuable skills working at the Arts Centre due to the diverse range of clients and projects that I have worked on.

6. What is the most interesting/memorable thing you have done?

I guess the Korean Cultural festival was probably the most memorable thing I've done while I was in Australia. The festival saw close to 35,000 attendees throughout the day. I worked for 14 hours with little to eat due to how tight the schedule was. I did remember waking up the next day after the festival quite sore but feeling quite good that we pulled off a festival of this size.