This week’s featured artist is vocalist Danny Fong, who participated in Jazzology in 2011.
A native of Saskatoon, Danny moved to Toronto in 2007 to complete his Bachelor of Music at Humber College and his Bachelor of Education at the University of Toronto. During this time he sang with many vocal ensembles including his a cappella quartet, Rendezvous, performing at numerous events and international barbershop competitions across the North America.
In 2008, Danny began arranging, performing, recording, and mixing a cappella music in the YouTube community. His videos have received over 5 million views and landed him a YouTube Partnership and numerous awards. He also began collaborating with other musicians from around the world who shared his love for jazz harmony. With a mutual love of groups like Take 6, The Singers Unlimited, and The Hi-Lo’s, the vocal group Accent was formed, featuring six members from Canada, France, Sweden, the United States, and the United Kingdom. The group would communicate and collaborate online – never having met in person. After headlining the A Midsummer Light’s Dream Festival in Sweden in June 2014, only days after meeting for the first time, they knew they were musical soul mates. They were invited to perform in the London A Cappella Festival in January 2015, where they released their debut EP, Here We Are.
His most memorable performances include sharing the stage with musicians Bob Mintzer, Kurt Elling, and Joni Mitchell as well as singing with the orchestra of Video Games Live at Massey Hall. In his spare time, Danny creates learning tracks and writes commissioned custom arrangements for a cappella groups. When he isn’t leading workshops about singing in high schools or festivals, he enjoys singing in local choirs and teaching vocal and piano lessons.
Danny shared some of his memories of the Jazzology program and outlined his thoughts on music education and his developing music career:
1) Describe your experience with the Jazzology program. What was your favourite aspect?
My favorite aspect was compiling hundreds of my favorite arrangements into a short segment to feature, in my opinion, the most influential a cappella music over the past 60 years. I felt that jazz a cappella music wasn’t extremely well known and thought that it was more interesting to inform listeners of JAZZ.FM91 than to talk about myself at that point in my life.
2) What is your strongest memory of the Jazzology program? Are there any funny stories or incidents that come to mind?
The strongest memory for me was the surprised feeling I had when I found out I had been recommended for the program, especially since I didn’t even know of its existence beforehand. My initial thoughts were that since none of my friends at school were listening to a cappella music, no one else would be interested in hearing what I had to say about it. It wasn’t until I was in the studio with Brad that I realized how much I appreciated the art form and wanted to share what I knew. Until this point I was never able to have an in-depth discussion about it with my peers and Brad was more than interested in what I had to say.
3) Would you recommend this experience to other young musicians?
Absolutely! A career and lifetime in music requires a lot of inspiration and the desire to continue learning. Jazzology was a stepping stone to realize how passionate I was about this kind of music and has ultimately led me to my career now and the endless potential with my vocal group, Accent, that we feel has a very promising future for the jazz community.
4) How has this experience helped in your personal and professional development?
This experience has helped me feel like an ambassador for vocal music performance, arranging, recording, and general appreciation. The cumulative experience I gained from this program adds to the list of experiences that have shaped my professional career.
5) This program is made possible by our generous donors and sponsors who strongly believe in the importance of arts education initiatives. If you had the opportunity to thank them in person, what would you say?
Words cannot fully express how thankful I am for generous donors who appreciate the music we made and share. Unlike other professions, after we finish our music degrees there are no jobs waiting for us. The most we can take from programs like this is experience and expertise to develop our skillsets into marketable opportunities, while pursuing what we love to do – seven days a week.
6) Why is music education important?
To me, music education inspires life-long learning. It introduces us to music we’ve never heard and can challenge and inspire us to always work toward greater musical understanding. Without music education I would be living in Saskatoon and probably have a degree in Physics. While that would be very interesting as well, at this point in my life, there is nothing I would rather do than to be making music every day of my life and sharing it with those who appreciate it most.
7) Since participating in the program, what have you been doing?
The first thing I did was complete my Bachelor of Education at U of T for a possible career alternative later in life. Since then, I have been working in Toronto as a freelance musician working in the choral scene and increasing my online repertoire on YouTube as an independent recording artist. Many small collaborations with other YouTube musicians in France, the United Kingdom, Sweden, and the United States have resulted in our vocal group Accent. After increasing our online fan base for several years, we were fortunate enough to be able to meet and perform in real life after communicating for three years. What we expected to be a fun trip with an interesting story to tell turned out to be a meeting of the most talented, inspiring, and educated musicians I had ever met, all with the same drive and experience that I had, if not more. Since our first meeting we haven’t gone more than a few hours without talking online every day.
8) What music are you listening to at the moment that you find particularly inspiring?
After Accent’s most recent performance at the London A Cappella Festival in January 2015, I have had a long list of music to listen to that I was introduced to: Clare Fischer’s vocal group 2+2, Les Double Six, A Special Blend, and other vocal groups that all existed before 1985.
9) What are your plans for the future?
My plans are to continue making the music I make on YouTube while trying to attract more interest to my Patreon webpage. Patreon is a crowd-funding / rewards site where appreciators of my music can pledge or tip money to the music I’m making. In the last year, many small contributions have gone a very long way that I can continue making the music I love through the support of listeners. However, my real thoughts of the future are focused around Accent and deciding on the best route to take to make us a full-time, professional, performing, and recording group. We are certain that 2015 will be a very promising year for our professional development.
10) How can people learn more about you and your activities?
You can find links to all of Accents social media, Patreon support campaigns, and download links on our website: http://www.accentvocal.com
For my solo work you can hear as much as you’d like for free at on YouTube here: http://www.youtube.com/daniscool99
If you enjoy what you hear, please consider supporting the style of music I make at http://www.patreon.com/dannyfong
11) Is there anything else that you want to add?
To me, working with Accent is THE vocal group and musical project/inspiration that I HAVE to work with. I haven’t ever met enough musicians in one place who were as excited about singing in a group like this in my entire life and cannot wait to see what the future has in store. I haven’t ever felt as much potential from a group of musicians as I do with Accent. We would be delighted if you would take a few minutes and listen to our Electronic Press Kit to hear our story here:
We’re very excited to see what 2015 brings and can’t wait to share it with all of our patrons and friends.