Video of Kaboom! by Melody Hung
I thought I’d share with you an amazing recital of largely original work, composed by our very own TD alumnus, Melody Hung. It’s a real treat, both musically and visually. I hope you’ll be blessed and inspired by her music and her passion that oozes through her music. It’s music and hope for those who may be in a dark place.
There’s a bit of everything – classical pieces, contemporary songs, a love song to God that she plays and sings, graphic art, a re-scored Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker trailer (w/video), movie-like music, and even original video game music! I think you’ll thoroughly enjoy it, as I did. Just click SHOW MORE to see the contents.
I also hope you’ll be enriched by her sharing and raw honesty as she shares some of her up-and-down life journey with us, from church kid, TD’er, and beyond in an interview I did with her for you TD’ers. – Arthur
Arthur: Wow, that was an amazing senior recital, Melody! What a feast for the senses! It felt like a 5-course gourmet meal at an upscale restaurant, with an anchoring in classic faire but an exploration into modern technique and fusion. Congratulations!
What was your inspiration and vision for Kaboom! ? Obviously, it was a requirement for you to graduate; but it was more than that. It was an opportunity to let your passion and heart flow out and present an offering to the Lord. Can you describe what went in to this whole process; what it took; what your dreams and visions were for this?
Melody: Thank you; I’m glad you enjoyed it!
My vision for this program was to relate, comfort, excite, and inspire.
This recital was an honest representation of my life’s journey thus far. It’s the road that the Lord has led me down, and it hasn’t been easy. At the beginning of college, I asked Him for an adventure to bring me close to Him, and He has definitely given me one.
Some of these pieces I wrote during my college career, but I admit I wrote half of the program during the past month because: (1) I hadn’t composed enough during college; (2) I had composed pieces that absolutely required a live choir and orchestra, so I had to scrap those pieces from my program when the pandemic hit; (3) I have matured as a musician, so some past pieces simply did not seem good enough to go on my program.
I named this recital “KABOOM!” after the last piece on my program, the piece for symphony orchestra that I wrote this past year. At the end of 2019, my professor challenged me to write something with the energy in Leonard Bernstein’s Candide Overture and John Adams’ “Short Ride in a Fast Machine.” Up until then, I had been writing music that could be described as contemplative, wistful, pretty, and pretty safe (in terms of tonality and harmonic language, at least). Even though I hated to admit it, my compositions reflected my life, and, being the conflict-avoidant person that I am, I was hesitant to face the challenges the Lord had placed in my life, and I was empathetic to the challenges in other people’s lives.
But at the end of 2019, after a year of intense mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual strain that earned me my first ambulance ride to the ER, I felt something explode within me. I was at my breaking point, even though I couldn’t allow my friends and family to see that (I’m sure a lot of you high schoolers have felt this way, and my heart is with you). I was ready to take on the challenge my professor had given me, and promptly formed a new, blank folder on my laptop and typed in “KABOOM!”
And I hoped that whatever became of this recital would relate, comfort, excite, and inspire someone in the middle of his or her own dark time.
Arthur: Growing up at MBCLA, it was obvious that you had an immense amount of musical training; you were often showcased growing up in the children’s choir performances (remember those?). In fact, I think I have some old videos of you that I’m thinking about bribing you with! haha
Towards the end of your high school years and early college years, I invited you to join my Sunday morning worship team to open an avenue for your talents, your love for music, and your heart for musical worship. For those who are not regulars on stage, it may seem to be somewhat of a “glamorous” role. Can you speak to some of the joys and struggles with being a “performing” or highly visible part of Christ’s Body … especially being so young in doing so?
Melody: Haha! I was in children’s choir and I took on-and-off again piano lessons from ages 5 through 13, and I started violin lessons at 12. Looking back, I wish I had had more serious musical training, but growing up, I was warned against seriously pursuing music and so didn’t think about doing it.
Ah, yes. I was thankful for the opportunity to be on the musical worship team. I learned a lot. The joys were very great: I got to know you guys, I got to learn to make music in a band, and I got to worship through music. It is a blessing like no other to worship through your instrument and your voice— with others!—, and to encourage the congregation to do so was a blessing.
The main struggles I had were: (1) having to respond to praise from church members after the service was over, (2) the sense of pride that gets to you as a human being, and most painful of all, (3) distance from peers because some thought I was unapproachable and prideful. It was a blessing to be used and apprenticed, but also kind of hard when it feels like people have their eyes on you. It’s a lot of pressure if you’re focused on it, and I’m thankful that I was guided by you guys and my counselor to keep my eyes on the Lord in this area of my life, as in all other areas of life.
Arthur: You’ve always been a passionate person and strongly in tune with your feelings, which comes out in your music and gives it that “extra” that goes beyond playing or singing the right tune; your music is moving to the listener.
Some youth are musical by training or because they were given lessons, etc. from early on. For others, like you, it is a passion deep within that God has given them. It’s part of what God made and called them to do and be. Yet, that’s not always practical and consistent with what many parents envision for their children.
You’re still young, so I’m sure your answer will change in the future; but for now, what was that journey like for you and what thoughts would you have for youth in an Asian church, like TD’ers, who may have similar gifts and passions as you?
Melody: Right… Well. I’ll start off with talking about my journey and then some of my thoughts.
I tried SO HARD not to end up in music. Growing up, I was told repeatedly by family members and music teachers alike that music is a hard path— don’t do it— but, play violin well so that you can get scholarships in college. So this was my vision of my career growing up: to get into a good college and get music scholarships to pay off the fees on the road to become a marine biologist or occupational therapist (which were some of my interests growing up) or something. Anything but music. 😀 For this reason, I was always a little half-hearted in my studies of music throughout my childhood. I did it for pleasure and was afraid to commit.
Sure, I started off my college career as a composition major at APU (low-key, I had applied for this school knowing I’d probably get in with any major, so I put down composition for fun and scholarships. — Okay, and I was also a little curious about music…) And yes, I faced some disappointment and criticism for being a music major— at APU— from the people around me.
But I switched my major after one week of being in music classes because I was terrified of being in those classes. I switched to Social Work.
Two years later, I had a conversation on the phone with my dad. I called my parents occasionally at night, because I was living on campus, and tonight, we happened to be talking about my career. I felt the stress of many Asian kids as I talked to my dad, and I tried to impress him by talking about my studies and grades. Even though I was very well down the road to becoming a social worker, I had been in the APU orchestras (for the purpose of receiving scholarships, as I said) now for two years, and at that point I was wishing every rehearsal that I could’ve been a musician. I didn’t tell this to my dad. But my dad suddenly asked me, “Melody, what do you really want to do, with all of your gifts, after APU?… Is it something to do with music?”
I was fortunate enough to have gotten the support of my dad through this all. And after talking with professors and music friends, I was convinced that music majoring could actually work out, if I put my all into it. I really did put my all into it.
Now, I’m still young, but I’d like to give some practical advice to you who might want to pursue a field in the Arts.
One of my professors who composes, arranges, and orchestrates for Disney’s attractions and is a regular keyboardist in the big recording sessions in town (Hollywood, London, etc.), scared/scarred us with this statement in the first day of an advanced music class, “If there’s something besides music that you are interested in doing for a career, I recommend that you go do that instead.” (A pause for an eternity as the room went silent). “… But if you’re here and you want music more than anything else, then welcome. It’s a deeply rewarding path.”
If you think the Lord has put it in your heart to be an artist, and you want to be an artist more than anything else, think about it again— And then give it your all and don’t look back. My experience is that: talent matters little, passion matters a lot, and work is what will actually get you somewhere. Talent + passion + work is the dream combination. You gotta work for it, my friends. Especially if you’re an Asian and you have expectations to fill… I empathize.
Here’s some practical encouragement, though. If you’re going to MBCLA, you’re probably living in the LA County. I can’t even emphasize this enough: there are so many opportunities for artists here in LA. If you are smart, you will look for those opportunities, and if you are a person of character, you will obtain them. I’m confident you will succeed, and especially if your life and purposes are for His Kingdom.
Arthur: As a TD alum from TCHS, you were very involved with TD, your Christian group on campus, the music department, and the swim team. As you look back at the rear view mirror, what do you now see God was doing in your life in high school? What areas do you now have greater clarity about, where you now are able to say, “Ahhh, now I get it, Lord!”
Melody: Yeah! At TCHS, I dabbled in a lot of different things. As you said, I ended up being a leader in the Christian club, and I invited you to come speak to our high schoolers several times! I also tried hanging out with the popular kids, then found it more comfortable with the nerds, I was in the swim team, and of course with the orchestra dorks. But I joined the Speakers process in the 10th grade, and it changed my life because I reevaluated the way I looked at things and tried to commit my life to the Lord. I’m thankful for that, looking back, because it grounded me in God. But then, I began to swing a little too far in that direction, if that makes sense—
My friends in high school began to think that I was hard-headed and “too spiritual.” I regret not spending more time with them and with my family. I regret being prideful in my faith and staying in a Christian bubble that nonbelievers had no access to. I didn’t realize how much my friends were going through. I actually became legalistic in my thinking and in my relationship with God, and I regret that God, my friends, and family had to bear with that.
But I also think that, because I had formed certain habits in high school to make sure I was grounded in the Lord, I was sheltered from a lot of hurt and mistakes I could have made. Some of my friends also told me that I was like a light for them, and they could always trust me because they could tell I was a person of faith. I’m thankful for these things.
I don’t completely get it yet, but I’m starting to see that high school taught me about being disciplined and determined in my walk with God— and to place God above the million expectations of a high school student . There’s a balance to be struck— being in the world but not of it— and it’s the art of the Christian life. And high school is HARD, I learned that!
Arthur: Do you have any words of encouragement or advice you’d like to give our current TD’ers, now that you’re five years removed from high school and TD?
Melody: (1) I have faith in you and I’m proud of you. You’ve got mountains to climb, but you have brothers and sisters ahead and behind, cheering you on.
(2) God loves you. You’re created for Him. Come before the Lord humbly at all times, and wait in stillness for Him. He will reveal Himself to you. This is your one and only task in life as a Christian with eternal life, as spoken by Jesus Himself, “And this is eternal life, that they know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3).
(3) Write out your priorities, then work hard at them. Don’t work hard blindly, or else you’ll waste precious God-given time.
Arthur: Thanks for such honest sharing, Mel! It was great catching up with you! God be with you in the days ahead!
Melody: Thanks for asking! It was a pleasure. Thanks for having me!