Born and raised in New Jersey, May May Gong performs with the Bellingham Sings! Colibri chamber ensemble at 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 7, during the monthly Downtown Art Walk, at Allied Arts Gallery.
Question: What's your career history?
Answer: I've had an eclectic variety of jobs, starting right out of college (Columbia University) as assistant photo editor at Natural History Magazine, to Oakland Transit bus driver, to power plant operator.
Since 2000, I've run my own web design company called Northwest Digital Design, specializing in search-engine-friendly websites for small to mid-sized businesses. I enjoy the creativity and flexibility of self-employment, but, being a natural-born lollygagger, I also need to be very strict with myself in monitoring my time.
Q: How did you start singing and performing in public?
A: Until I got involved with Sarabande, one of the original ensembles in Bellingham Sings!, I had never sung with any group before; no chorus, no bands, no nothing. A friend from college, however, was always heavily involved in glee club and choir, and one summer we had a phone conversation where she excitedly explained that her choral group, The Stonewall Chorale, in New York City, was about to begin their fall season.
After that conversation, I happened to hear about auditions for a new women's group in Bellingham called Sarabande. I fondly remember pulling up to (director) Ann MacDonald's house and seeing her smiling face for the very first time. She ran me through some exercises; then gave me something to sing. I immediately blurted out, "Are you crazy, I can't sing that high!" She assured me, "You can, and you will!"
I will be forever grateful to Ann for the gift of singing, and the increased confidence I now enjoy. I still have a lot to learn, but that's part of the fun.
I'm presently singing with both the Allegra Women's Choir, and the new Colibri Ensemble. In addition to the Art Walk, we'll have two performances of our winter program, "In the Moon of Wintertime," on Jan. 26 and 27. All the details are on our website, bellinghamsings.org.
Q: What music do you enjoy?
A: I genuinely enjoy all different genres of music, from classical, followed by a variety of jazz, folk and pop styles. I lean toward more contemporary sounds, and I love tunes with good, crunchy harmonies, interesting rhythms and clever lyrics.
Q: What do you like about performing?
A: The joy I get from performing comes from sharing good music with other people, and being able to move them, emotionally. I prefer to be well-prepared, but even if not, I think if you bring enough passion to your performance, and sing (or play) with conviction, your audience will have fun. I'm not nervous when I perform with a group, or even with one other person. I get pretty nervous, though, if I have to perform solo.
Q: What's your process for learning a new song?
A: Learning new music is one of my most favorite activities. For vocal pieces, I try to find a good recording so I can listen and get a sense of the piece. Next, I plunk out my part on the piano, and practice singing along.
Q: What will you be performing at the Art Walk?
A: The Dec. 7 Art Walk gig is going to be a lot of fun. The general theme will be Christmas (not the usual "Jingle Bell" fare, though), and all our luscious tunes will be sung a cappella. Whatcom Sound Jazz Singers and the Colibri Ensemble will sing a piece together, and then the new Colibri Ensemble will sing several of our gorgeous French tunes.
Q: What else do you enjoy?
A: I have been having a lot fun studying cello for the past five years with the fabulous Pall Grondal. As with singing, I prefer small ensembles, such as quartets, or duets with another cellist. Recently, I joined the North Sound Community Orchestra. I enjoy the musical "conversations" that occur between the instruments in these smaller groups.
Of course, not a day goes by that I don't sit down at my piano (the piano I've had since I was 6 years old) even for just a few minutes. Besides these music addictions, I enjoy photography, writing, cooking, and eating - often simultaneously!