Old Redingensian, George Chen shares his inspiring musical journey from Reading School to Abbey Road Studios
George Chen (OR 2018) went on to study Master of Engineering at Imperial College of London and now works as a Senior Data Scientist. George’s shares with us how his passion for music took him to the infamous Abbey Road Studios.
“The music department at Reading School profoundly influenced my musical passion – a passion that has remained a constant thread throughout my time in university and beyond.”
I'm excited to take you on a journey that started right here, in the heart of Reading School, and led me all the way to Abbey Road Studios. I spent my formative years at Reading School from 2011 to 2018, and later ventured into studying MEng Electronic and Information Engineering at Imperial College London. But the purpose of this piece isn't to delve into the domain of STEM.
Instead, I'm here to share how the music department at Reading School profoundly influenced my musical passion – a passion that has remained a constant thread throughout my time in university and beyond.
Where Passion Takes Root
Just like countless others, my musical journey started in a rather common way. At the age of 5, I found myself reluctantly taking piano lessons under the 'encouragement' of my parents. I progressed through the ranks of classical piano, reaching the peak when I completed ABRSM’s Grade 8 exam. This marked an achievement, but it also signalled my shift away from classical piano music. The reality was, those compositions never truly resonated with me.
The real turning point came when I joined Reading School. Here, I stumbled upon a form of music that truly spoke to me – singing.
During my early days at Reading School, I came to realise something simple yet profound: everyone has a soft spot for singing deep down. We've all joined our voices for morning chapel hymns and music classes. But what made me embrace public singing on my own, taking it from private bedroom sessions to something bigger?
Interestingly, it all began at 13 when I started writing songs. Before I delved into singing, I was composing. My early creations weren't polished or perfect, but they resonated with friends, becoming vessels for the emotions I wanted to express.
With time, my focus shifted to honing my vocal skills. After school, I'd rush home to practise singing before my parents returned. Step by step, I got comfortable performing on stage with a piano and microphone setup at our school concerts. Reading School's music department was instrumental in this journey. Guided by Mr. Meehan, our Head of Music back then, a nurturing environment for musical growth emerged. This wasn't just about the teachers; my peers also provided endless encouragement. I'm convinced that this mix of support and constructive feedback lays the foundation for budding artists.
The Human Side of Music – Creating Connections
As my musical journey unfolded, I started grasping the social and emotional layers of music. Beyond the technical aspects, I realised that music holds the incredible power to convey feelings, tell stories, and bring people together. This newfound awareness motivated me to organise charity concerts in collaboration with Macmillan Cancer Support. The goal was simple: to make a positive impact through music.
These charity concerts were more than fundraisers. They represented a collective effort to make a difference. And even after my school days ended, the echoes of these events remained as cherished memories. What's fascinating is that the connections formed during those times continued to flourish beyond school.
Coincidentally, a friend I met through these charity concerts ended up joining the same a cappella group with me at Imperial College. Our shared passion drove us to become co-musical directors. This transition from school to university marked the beginning of my journey into a cappella music. During my college years, I plunged into this genre, discovering how vocal skills and creative expression can converge. And this adventure culminated in the chance to record vocal tracks for my professional a cappella group (@lowkey.vocals) at the iconic Abbey Road Studios.
Turning Dreams into Reality – Recording at Abbey Road Studios
The experience of recording at Abbey Road Studios is undoubtedly a highlight in my musical journey. But it's not a standalone achievement; it's the outcome of a sequence of events and the influence of certain individuals. This highlights the power of teamwork, personal growth, and how connections can shape our path.
At the heart of this achievement lies our group's unity. One member, Emily Pulford, dived into music production studies, opening the door to Abbey Road Studios. This showcases the strength of networking and embracing shared passions.
Let's rewind a bit. None of this would've happened if I hadn't taken the leap into a cappella auditions during my first week at Imperial College. And believe it or not, that very first song I wrote back in secondary school, driven by a crush we've all experienced, played a role in this journey too. I must also express my heartfelt appreciation to my parents for their steadfast support in encouraging those early piano lessons – their guidance played a crucial role in nurturing my enduring passion for music.
Get In Touch
If my journey has struck a chord with you and you're feeling inspired, I'm here to lend a hand and answer any queries you might have. Navigating the realms of music while balancing academia can be intricate, but it's incredibly rewarding. Feel free to send me an email at (firstname.lastname@example.org); I'd love to connect. And for those of you who want to explore this path further, I encourage you to tap into the resources available through Reading School's music department or other educational avenues that nurture your creativity.
As you embark on your own journey of discovery, remember that your dreams and passions are brimming with potential. Embrace what you love, excel in your studies, and let your journey create a symphony that resonates with your unique essence.
Warm regards and best wishes on your unfolding journey,
George Chen, Class of 2018