Hsin Yeow’s thoughts: Multihyphenate

Bevlyn can now add “columnist” to her ever growing list of professional roles:


I have been doing music full-time for about five years now. Since quitting my job as a youth counsellor at the end of 2002, I have been singing at pubs and events, and I also compose my own songs.

Given the response I get when I tell some people what I do for a living, I gather it must seem like a bizarre feat to clock this number of years.

The most popular reaction is a raised eyebrow (or two) accompanying a monosyllabic “Oh…”, followed by a few nods. Then, an uneasy silence before they realise the need to continue the conversation. I used to feel awkward in new social circles whenever the question of what I do came up in the conversation. Such situations left me wondering what it was that made my musician job such a hard thing to react to.

After some time, I evolved to feel sorry for the person asking the question because he would fumble due to the lack of a ready and appropriate response.

Then, there are others who would become concerned about the state of my finances. Responses include: “Oh, so are you doing okay?”, “Huh? Can survive meh?”, and “Do you mind telling me roughly, err, how much you make a month?”

I can understand that most people do not know how to react to me since I’m not in a typical white-collar job, but it’s downright rude to be so bare-faced about the size of my rice bowl.

Musicians are usually paid on an hourly basis, do not enjoy health benefits or CPF contributions from their employers. Perhaps that is why some people place us musicians somewhere at the bottom rung of the social status ladder (if we are not famous).

But I’d like to think that we are exchanging all these monetary benefits for the opportunities to indulge in our passion while we “work”.

Going back to the point of inappropriate reactions, not all are so hard to bear. Interesting ones include: “Oh, so do you have an album?”, “When are you coming up with an album?”, and “Wow, it’s so good to be able to follow your passion!” Responses like these make me persist on in times of self-doubt and financial insecurity.

My struggle with my identity as a singer has diminished over the years. I believe I share the same sentiments with other professionals in “exotic” occupations like photographers, videographers, make-up artists and

I used to struggle over the choice of words I use to introduce myself and my job – the descriptions I used include “I’m a singer”, “I sing”, “I’m a musician”, “I do music full-time” and “I’m a wedding-singer”. In fact, just so that I might get the initial sunny-side-up response from other people, I may even now say, “I’m an entrepreneur”.

The writer is a full-time singer, songwriter and wedding singer. She has just released an album
called Lonely Afternoon. For more information, please go to www.bevlynkhoo.com