[By Darius Shu]
In a typical lecture theatre filled with music enthusiasts, a once-in-a-blue moon opportunity held open its doors from 10 to 12 September – a 12-hour long, memorable music workshop, guided by renowned singer-songwriter Juwita Suwito, organized by Taylor’s University Music Club in collaboration with 440 Records and Roland.
From the moment she stepped on stage, it was evident that Juwita was delighted to see everybody attending the workshop. The very first thing she told us was that she wanted to see each and every one of us perform live on stage for her. A nerve wracking feeling came over me – I had never performed live before. One after another, I watched as participants walked down the aisle and sang their favorite songs with full confidence. I was the last one to perform, since I was scrabbling to find a song that I could sing. It was only when I was on stage that I decided on the spot to sing Rude by MAGIC!.
A minute and one chorus later though, I almost froze with fright when my mind suddenly went blank and I could not remember the lyrics. I don’t know if it was a sudden stroke of stage fright, but luck was on my side. A split second later, the words came back to my head and I managed to finish the song. Juwita was really supportive and encouraging, not just to me but to each and every one of us.
Being a passionate music lover with an interest in songwriting, this workshop was one of the most anticipated events this semester for me. Having written more than thirty songs of different genres, this workshop came as an eye opener for learning how I could improve and whether I am on the right track in song composition. During the Songwriting 101 segment, Juwita took the stage and related to us her past experiences, and how she started singing and composing. One good tip she gave us was that if you want to improve, you should never stop writing. She advised that we should just continue to write no matter where we are or how we feel. She gave us tips on how to structure songs, about the many types of song formats, and the importance of a hook, which is the catchiest part of a song.
We were all taken by surprise when Juwita gave us a short test – we were asked to create an original song in pairs, within 15 minutes. The clock started ticking and everyone took out their pens and papers and even iPads to start brainstorming. I was lucky to pair up with a friend who co-writes songs and plays in a band. I managed to put together the melody and lyrics of a short pop song while my friend arranged the music. When we showcased our song composition and performed on stage, I was thrilled and proud to have Juwita complimenting the hook in the chorus of our song. Everyone had the chance to share their work, and some even came up with funny lines that had us all laughing.
The final workshop of the day was Band 101. The night was livened up with a band performance led by Wagner Daniel from 440 Records that got everybody tapping their feet and grooving to the sounds of bass, guitar, drums and keyboard all in unison. Daniel taught us how a jamming session usually works, and how bandmates connect and communicate with each other. He invited a volunteer from the audience to jam with the band, and when they randomly played a song, the volunteer managed to sing along perfectly. It was pretty obvious that everyone was having the time of their lives – both the performers and the participants.
Before the night ended, I was given one last surprise when Juwita asked me to perform with the band. She then joined me, and the two of us made up a song about waffles and other randomly hilarious lyrics that popped spontaneously into our minds for the next five minutes.
Singing with Juwita Suwito was probably the highlight of my day, even though I was pretty nervous the entire time. It was an experience of a lifetime, and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.