Richard Tang (BBA 2011)
When Richard Tăng Dật Hanh (BBA 2011) first got up in front of an audience and sang, he discovered a passion he knew would be with him for life. The thrill of the applause had him hooked and wanting more. Winning fourth prize in a televised singing contest boosted his confidence even further. Now he had validation from a source other than his family and friends. At 15 years of age, Richard knew he would make a career in music.
His parents, however, did not agree. While Richard wanted to enroll to study music in his home country of Vietnam, his parents, both musicians themselves, were adamant that Richard would read for a “proper” degree overseas that would open doors for him to build a “proper” career. Richard couldn’t understand their point of view at the time. However, having graduated from NUS Business School in 2011, he can now appreciate that, thanks to his parents foresight, he has a choice of careers and something to fall back on, should a career in music not pan out.
A well-rounded education at NUS
“In fact, studying at NUS also opened up more doors for me in music even while I was studying business,” Richard explains. In addition to being the vocal instructor of the Vocal Group of the Vietnamese Community (VNCNUS) in his free time, he joined the NUS Choir. This experience exposed him to an even wider range of music styles and increased his network of friends with music contacts. “I used the opportunity to soak up all I could learn in music from NUS’ extensive libraries in my spare time as well,” he recalls. He became exposed to jazz, blues, rock, pop, Latina and classical genres, and recognised the beauty in them all. “When I write my music today, I can see the influence these styles have had on my writing,” he says.
Richard began writing his own music on the guitar when he was 15, inspired by his eldest uncle, who was also a songwriter, and picking up basic music theory from his parents.
The exposure he gained in various competitions in Vietnam earned Richard recognition in the local music scene, and he was privileged to have been mentored by Vietnamese musician Giac An, a songwriter of Buddhist music, who showed him all he knows today about how to structure layers and master scores. Richard was also inspired by Pham Duy, a renowned Vietnamese musician who graced a concert Richard organised in Singapore in 2010. “I was so honoured to have him travel to Singapore especially to give his support to the concert,” Richard proudly reminisces.
Adding music director to his repertoire
While he is committed to his work as Regional Consultant at HRnetOne, an executive search firm, his spare time at weekends is taken up with his first passion, music. He has taken part in four major concerts since coming to Singapore. Two of the concerts he organised himself and the other two were organised by the Gentle Fund Organization (GFO) – a non-profit Vietnamese organisation based in Singapore that raises funds through Singapore’s Vietnamese community in aid of underprivileged children in Vietnam.
Giving back by nurturing new talents
Through these concerts, Richard discovered yet another passion. Having had the benefit of mentors in his own musical development, he naturally began to groom and nurture other music talents, forming a musical interest group, Harita Productions. “I admire the prolific songwriter David Foster and how he nurtures and promotes other talents,” Richard enthuses. “That’s what I aspire to do.” His degree through NUS Business School has armed him with the knowledge needed to develop his business in the future. He sees the artistes he works with in Harita Productions as family. “The idea is that we all grow together.”
An ongoing learning journey
Even while he works to hone the skills of upcoming musicians, Richard knows his own learning will never be completed. He used to write his songs on the guitar, but two to three years ago he started learning to play the piano, mentored by fellow GFO member, the talented pianist Ashley Nguyen. She taught him the basics and he further honed his craft through watching videos on YouTube. Now he also uses the piano to write his songs. When ideas come to him, he records them in his small home recording studio. “Either the melody comes first and the lyrics later, or they both come at the same time,” he explains of the writing process.
Singing-wise, Richard is influenced by the quartet Il Divo and aspires to perform to their standard to local audiences in Vietnam. But it is in writing that his passion truly lies and where he has ambitions on a global scale. “I am strengthening my base now so that I can write scores for movies in the future,” he explains. “Maybe one day, I’ll write a Broadway show. That’s a dream I would love to come true.