Wee was the music director for Jennifer Lopez’s performance at the ceremony, where the pop star belted out two songs
You can take Lenny Wee out of the lion city, but you can’t take the Singaporean out of the US-based music arranger and orchestrator. If it wasn’t for the pandemic, Wee would have been up to a couple of things – like paying his family a visit back in Singapore and tucking into glorious hawker food. But coronavirus be damned; a global crisis hasn’t stopped him from flying the Singapore flag high in the US.
His name might not ring a bell among Singaporeans, but Wee is hitting both new personal and career milestones on the other side of the world. The Singapore-born has composed, arranged and orchestrated music for numerous top television shows, including the US National Anthem for Gladys Knight’s performance at Super Bowl LIII, The Academy Awards (Oscars), American Idol, The Grammys and various Disney Television specials.
More recently, Wee was the music director for Jennifer Lopez’s performance at President Joe Biden‘s inauguration early this year, a monumental event graced by the likes of Bruce Springsteen and Lady Gaga. Wee’s involvement in the event is definitely one for the books – but he admits that he treated it like any other project he had been tasked with.
“You can call it an achievement. It was definitely an honour to be asked to be involved and I was very humbled to be there, especially as an immigrant. With that said, I do put the same amount of effort in everything that I do, to make the best music that I can. So, I didn’t feel like I looked at this inauguration as something different from my regular work,” posits Wee.
Counting Anglo-Chinese Junior College as his alma mater, Wee moved to Boston after graduating from his music elective programme to further his musical studies at the highly esteemed Berklee College of Music. His creative pursuit led him to bag multiple awards and scholarships during his stint at the college, including the Milican Award for orchestral composition – and the rest, truly, is history.
What’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?
Brush my teeth.
What’s one foolproof way of destressing?
Eat a pint of ice cream.
Who do you admire most, and why?
Wow, that’s difficult. I admire a lot of people, actually. I admire those who go against the odds.
What does success mean to you?
I think that one’s definition of success changes as you move in life. For me, right now, what I’m chasing is to be gainfully employed while doing what I love.
What’s one life principle that has got you through your challenges?
I always believe that hard work triumphs talent.
Your achievements wouldn’t be possible without…
Parental support. The good thing about being Singaporean is that parents will always help their kids do what they want. At first, my parents didn’t like me going into music. But I managed to convince them and they’ve always been very supportive ever since.
Who would you like to work with on your next project?
I haven’t worked with a lot of people. But I’d like to work with Beyonce and Lady Gaga.
If you weren’t doing what you’re currently doing, what would your career look like?
I would have probably pursued science.
You’re a Singaporean. What’s your favourite local dish?
I’m a true blue Singaporean, and I like everything. I like all the hawker food. I’m Hainanese, so I’d have to say Hainanese chicken rice.
A bedtime ritual.
I don’t sleep. I sleep very, very little. I’m usually working before going to bed, and when I finish, I’ll just go to bed.
A piece of technology you can’t live without, besides a smartphone or a laptop.
I’ve got a cool one; you can’t get this in Singapore. I have a Tesla that drive me. I dont have to drive, which is the best thing about owning it. It’s my favourite tech gadget
If not for the pandemic, you’ll be…
Probably working on the Grammys.
Your holiday destination as soon as you could travel without worries.
The first is Singapore, obviously. But I always like Europe; it’s kind of like my happy place. I’d want to go to Spain as well and bring my parents along.
Which is more important: experience or education?
They’re both important in different ways. I think people place a lot of emphasis on education, and it’s important because education prepares you to learn on the job.
I’m not really a website person, but I do a bit of social media.
You’d tell your 18-year-old self to…
Not to worry so much about career prospects, I guess. I worried a lot when I was younger, but now I realise a lot of things happen for a reason. When you grab an opportunity, do the best you can. I think the next one will come along, you’ll learn more.
Rules are meant to be broken – do you believe in this?
That’s a tough one. It depends on what kind of rules. I have a bit of an OCD. I like following rules. Rules and restrictions generate creativity. I feel like the most creative things I’ve done were possible because there were stuff I wasn’t allowed to do.
Three values you live by.
Firstly, I love everyone in my life. Hard work is also obviously very important. And always be kind to everybody, regardless of who they are.