Believing in the power of music
“God of Rock, thank you for this chance to kick ass.” (Dewey Finn, School of Rock)
It was another warm summer weekend in downtown Vancouver. It was the early 90s, and people lined up around the block for the Commodore Ballroom to see Kevin and his band, SkaBoom. They were a huge hit in Vancouver, toured across Canada, and even released a music video on Much Music.
Kevin was the trumpet player and the only Asian Canadian member. There are countless wonderful stories about Kevin's music journey. I will focus on the BIPOC narrative because I think it'll make you smile :).
Kevin was born and raised in the 70s and 80s in Greater Vancouver. Fun fact: he graduated from the same high school as I did! If you think being an Asian was difficult during COVID-19, perhaps you can empathize with his time during a social climate when there was even less support.
Grade eight was when Kevin learned to play the trumpet in band class. He was good at it too! By grades 11 and 12, peers recognized Kevin more as a talented musician and less as "that Chinese guy." It gave Kevin a new identity.
Additionally, Kevin became close with his band teacher. He boosted Kevin's confidence, especially in dealing with racist taunts from other kids. Who knows? Perhaps this teacher also scolded other kids for being racist. Nonetheless, Kevin experienced less racism towards high school graduation.
Afterward, Kevin got a music degree in Washington. Then he moved to LA to study composition and arrangement. He also played for multiple music groups, including Dal Richards' band.
Eventually, Kevin and his friends formed SkaBoom in the late 80s. What was supposed to be a six-month initiative ended up being a six-year adventure. They played ska music, a concoction of Jamaican reggae and British punk, with swirls of American jazz. I mean, talk about multiculturalism!
One of Kevin's most heartwarming SkaBoom memories took place in Winnipeg during the tour. Before playing at a prominent club, the band conducted a radio interview.
When Kevin's bandmates shared Kevin was of Chinese descent, the radio host made a racist comment. The radio host joked about how the band brought their personal dry cleaner. Did the host not realize public racism resorted many Chinese men to take domestic jobs for income? To Kevin's surprise, a group of SkaBoom fans called the radio. The fans went off on the radio host and made him apologize for his racist comment on the air.
Kevin felt immensely touched that fans boldly stood up for him. Later that night, Kevin went crowd surfing for the first time. As an ethnic minority, Kevin had to be on guard with people he doesn't know. But that night, he trusted his fans would safely carry him from the stage and back.
Memories like these and ones from high school band highlight how Kevin is passionate about believing in the power of music and how it can cut through racism and foster a sense of belongingness. Instead of being off to the side, music invited Kevin to be part of the inner circle.
After a marvelous time with SkaBoom, Kevin became a music teacher. He has many fun stories from his teaching days (and now he's a retired substitute teacher). He adores teaching and connecting with students. I deduce Kevin was a cool, laid-back teacher that every student loves. Kevin became that teacher that inspires students, like how his once band teacher inspired him.
To contact Kevin and learn more about this story, follow @trptkevin on Instagram.