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Yan Neil Chan, fingerstyle guitar wonder

We speak to the young talent about his decision to follow his heart and passions by pursuing a career in music.

He scored straight As for his GCE 'A' levels two years ago and everyone around him expected him to pursue something along the lines of law, business or medicine. However, Yan Neil Chan, now 20, surprised everyone when he decided to take the road less travelled – music.

The fingerstyle guitarist from Catholic Junior College chose his passion for music and his skill landed him a full Yong Siew Toh music scholarship in 2011. Now studying Recording Arts and Science at the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music at the National University of Singapore (NUS), Neil is living the dream of many young and idyllic wannabe musicians.


NEIL SHOWING OFF HIS SKILLS ON THE FINGERSTYLE GUITAR, A FLEXIBLE, UNRESTRICTED STYLE OF PLAYING THE INSTRUMENT.
PHOTO CREDITS: YAN NEIL CHAN

His first career boost came when he was selected for NOISE Singapore's Music Mentorship programme, which put him under the guidance of music professionals like Saiful Idris, Daniel Sassoon and Bani Haykal. Through the program, Neil had the chance to perform at the Esplanade. He went on to win the 2012 Singapore Street Festival and performed at this year's Mosaic Music Festival in March.

The surprising thing about all this? Neil only picked up fingerstyle guitar two years ago, after completing his 'A' Levels. "I had a very long eight-month break, so I had a lot of time to practise the fingerstyle guitar. I tried taking one or two lessons, but felt like I didn't really learn a lot so everything was self-taught in the end."


PERFORMING FOR THE MOSAIC MUSIC FESTIVAL HELD AT THE ESPLANADE EARLIER THIS YEAR.
PHOTO CREDITS: YAN NEIL CHAN

Not quite the musical wunderkind we were picturing him to be, Neil laughed when he spoke of his childhood encounters with music. "I went to this program called Kindermusic when I was very young," Neil told Youth.SG. "Apparently, my mum tells me that I wasn't very excited about music at all!" His sudden interest in music only arose when another fingerstyle guitarist impressed him while performing at the church he attends.

Neil’s musical journey has not been completely smooth sailing though. He said: "The decision to go into music was really a tough one because it’s a very big risk. I'm always thinking, what if I just messed up my whole life by going into music? I could have pursued another degree that would secure me financially in the future."

Nevertheless, Neil does not regret his decision. His supportive parents and friends keep him going.


DESPITE THE FRIGHTENING UNCERTAINTY OF HIS FUTURE IN MUSIC, NEIL STILL STANDS BY HIS DECISION TO PURSUE IT.
PHOTO CREDITS: YAN NEIL CHAN

On top of that, becoming a musician has given him a newfound confidence. "Being a performer has helped me open up and now, I can conduct whole shows by myself," the musician chirped. “It's surprising how much I've changed since graduating from JC where I couldn't even talk to people in a public setting!"

Although future is indefinite for Neil, it looks anything but bleak. He is starting work on his upcoming album this month, and will be playing for the opening of Singapore Street Festival next month. 

Check out what the fingerstyle guitar extraordinaire has to show us in the video below!


Too see more of Neil's performances, visit his Facebook and YouTube page.