In conversation with: Three performing arts students on their journey at LASALLE

Open House 2021 featured students

Samuel Chua (BA(Hons) Musical Theatre) enjoys executing stunts. Melva Lee (BA(Hons) Acting) feels most at home on the stage. Emily Sia (BA(Hons) Music) loves writing songs to express herself and connect with others. All three share an aspiration to be performing artists and have chosen LASALLE College of the Arts to help them realise their dreams. Throughout their undergraduate studies, they have hustled and honed their craft. As they embark on their final semester, they look back on their education.

What was your first impression of LASALLE and what ultimately led you to pursue an arts education with us?

Samuel: I was impressed by the school’s architecture and open spaces. Coming from an international school myself, I also felt comfortable interacting with the many students from other cultures. Ultimately, I was drawn to LASALLE’s broad-based curriculum, the industry experts who taught in the Faculty of Performing Arts and the high standard of productions students performed in.

Melva: My first impression of LASALLE was that it was a very modern and innovative college. I was especially interested in the many unique modules and performance opportunities the College offered, all whilst focusing on the fundamentals of acting, history and practical skills. This was exactly what I was looking for in an arts education and hence suited me very well.

Emily: Back when I attended LASALLE’s Open House in 2015, I remembered how everyone was really warm and friendly. The music students also performed really well on stage and it was apparent that the College had a great learning environment. I wanted to play music as well as them and this convinced me to apply.

A demonstration of stage fighting by the Diploma in Performance students.
A demonstration of stage fighting by the Diploma in Performance students (right).

What were some memorable classes during your Diploma studies?

Samuel: As a former gymnast and national wakeboarder for Singapore, movement classes like Wushu and Silat appealed the most to me. The skills taught in these classes were definitely transferable. I found myself tapping into them from year one to three as I honed my acting as a stunt performer.

Melva: One module that really stood out for me was the acting classes with Daniel Jenkins. We had these classes throughout our Diploma programme and while they did get more challenging each year, I learnt a great deal from my lecturers who knew the ins-and-outs of the industry. From trust exercises to reading new monologues for auditions, these classes were extremely fundamental to my craft and development as an actor.

Emily: A favourite class of mine was percussion ensemble where we had to learn different percussion instruments from Cuban, Latin and African music. This was a refreshing change as classes do tend to get harder and more intense as you progress through the years.

Following graduation from your Diploma studies, why did you choose to continue pursuing a Bachelor’s (Honours) with LASALLE?

Samuel: Upon graduating with a Diploma in Performance, I had to serve my national service and was fortunately posted to the Music and Drama Company. Throughout my time there, I was able to develop my skills in dancing, singing, acting and hosting. I wanted to expand my career into these paths so the BA(Hons) Musical Theatre programme at LASALLE was a perfect fit. In training to be a triple threat, I hope to increase my versatility and network with local and international directors.

Melva: Many of LASALLE’s acting lecturers are key players in the theatre industry. As an aspiring actor, it thus made sense for me to continue studying at LASALLE, especially since a lot of the relationships forged here are continued after graduation, with classmates becoming your colleagues and lecturers collaborating with you as a professional.

Emily: While a degree would be great in enabling me to command a higher pay in the future, I personally also wanted to continue studying music as I felt like I still had so much more to learn musically.

From the Diploma to a BA(Hons) programme, were there skills, techniques & knowledge transfer that made the transition smooth?

Emily performing at the Rock & Indie Festival 2019.

Emily performing at the Rock & Indie Festival 2019.

Melva: In the Diploma programme, we covered much ground with technical theatre skills as we performed a lot of production work. In the degree programme though, there was more theoretical work to learn such as theatre history and research frameworks. I would therefore say that the transition was smooth for the practical side of theatre making but on the academic end, this was a new cognitive muscle I had to train. It wasn’t easy but I had wonderful lecturers who encouraged and pushed me hard in the way I approach my craft.

Emily: In our Bachelors studies, much of what we do now is built on the foundation gained during the Diploma years. The fundamentals I learned then definitely helped eased me into BA(Hons) Music programme.

What were some challenges and rewarding moments you’ve encountered in your undergraduate studies so far?

Samuel: I would say an unexpected challenge was juggling the many assignments, classes and productions all at once. The long hours and amount of study material really tires you out so it’s really important to maintain a balance by resting, eating right and having a positive attitude. I would say it is all worth it though when you realise just how much you’ve improved. Take my singing, for instance. I finally feel more confident on stage and I’m excited to push myself with songs that stretch my potential.

Melva: In my second year, I was cast as Viola in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night and I remembered feeling extremely grateful to receive such a big role, but was also equally anxious as there was so much complexity and comedy to the character. There was also Shakespearian-style prose and verse to learn and this was, in itself, very technically demanding. All in all, that production was one of the most challenging I had to overcome and I’m thankful for the support of my wonderful voice coach and classmates. The work ethic I developed from that single show was one of the biggest learning arcs I’ve had at LASALLE.

Emily: By far, I think the most daunting thing in my studies is to write a dissertation as I’ve never written one before. As for rewarding moments, the BA(Hons) Music programme has allowed me to exercise my creativity in writing original music and it always fills me with joy when competent musicians bring my score to life.

Melva, on the left, performing Twelfth Night.
Melva, on the left, performing Twelfth Night.

Looking back to when you were a Diploma freshie and to now as a BA(Hons) graduand in 2021, how would you say you’ve grown as a performing artist?

Samuel: I have grown to be a more mature performer with critical thinking skills. My education at LASALLE has given me the confidence to put myself out there in the market to pitch for quality work. For example, I was offered a lead role for a local television program Whoopie’s World last year, and I’m very proud to have my name out there in the industry even before graduation.

Melva: These five years have been a crazy rollercoaster ride of projects, classes and classmates. LASALLE has really defined so much of my growth as I was able to make mistakes and learn from them. I started out oblivious to many aspects of the industry but I’m now a passionate actor equipped with professional skills, tools and confidence to pursue what I want.

Emily: I’m now more aware of how much I still have to learn as a performing artist. The more I grow as a musician, the more I realise that there are still gaps in my knowledge and experience. It is my goal to never stop improving myself and to reach new heights.

What would you say has been the highlight of your five-year journey with LASALLE?

Samuel: My highlight has to be performing a vast amount of material and working with many different kinds of directors. I particularly enjoyed the process of creating Seussical, which was directed by Edith Podesta. She brought such an unorthodox perspective but it worked so well for this self-devised show. It was such a pleasure working with her.

Melva: It’s bit cliché but the people I’ve met at LASALLE have become some of the most important people in my life. These relationships will transcend school and continue into the industry, community and my personal life. I’ve went through some of the worst and best times with these classmates and while our ensembles aren’t perfect and we do disagree a lot, I’ve learnt so much about myself in the process. At the end of the day, we’re all working towards the same dream and I think that is very special.

Emily: It would no doubt be forming a band with like-minded people whom I now call my closest friends. We’ve grown so much together as artists – from our start in a class showcase, to being part of the line-up at LASALLE’s Rock & Indie Festival in 2019 – and I’m looking forward to our future journey together.

Samuel, front and centre, performing Seussical.
Samuel, front and centre, performing Seussical.