COOL was born in hope of becoming a bridge to let the art lovers all over the world inspire each other, link together as one, and create a new future in arts. The main contents consist of interviews of both New York-based and international artists and creators, special feature articles, art reports from around the world, reviews and column series. We contribute to the cultural exchange through arts and to the development of the art industry so that people in the world can enjoy arts casually and New York and major cities in the world can connect through the media COOL.
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Dana Leong is renowned as an extraordinary musician who plays both the cello and the trombone. He is one of the top performers in NY and his name has quickly found recognition throughout the world. Just a few years ago, he looked a bit the innocent young musician at his live performance, but his music already had a strong presence. Since then, he has been polishing his sound by playing classical, jazz, hip hop and R&B with top musicians as well as gaining experience in music for films and fashion shows. Dana Leong released his debut album entitled “LEAVING NEW YORK” this spring. His brilliant and aromatic sounds are blended with his fresh sensitivity and other elements that soar from New York the world over.

COOL: How was your living musical environment as a child?

DL: My musical environment was quite an animated one as a child. As a child,I was quite unpredictable. I always had an unlimited amount of energy and was extremely hyper active. Growing up with a single mother who taught piano lessons 7 days a week, and an older brother who was training to become a concert violinist, made it quite a healthy setting for musical growth. I learned by the time I was 18, I had learned almost every major violin concerto just by living & sleeping next door to my brother’s practice room.
After I took piano lessons for a few years, I started the violin, then later the cello & trombone. Though my mother had a grand plan to get me involved in the school band and orchestra, she disguised it behind the tale of "Santa Claus." When I was 8 years old, "Santa" brought me a cello and came again the next year with a trombone. I immediately began private lessons on both as well as studying in school.
Though I was required to listen to classical music, I had a secret fetish with rock and heavy metal which was thriving at the time in the 1980’s. Whenever, my mother would leave us alone at home, I would put on heavy metal and jump for joy on the couch until I was totally exhausted and out of breathe. I also loved the sound of the movie soundtracks of John Williams and would frequently visit those as well.

C: Who was the most influential person in your life?

DL: For obvious reasons, my mother was the first major influence on my life. She was playing piano even when she was pregnant carrying me. When I was 1 year old, she used to let me sit at the piano and touch the keys as I wished. Remarkably she noticed that I was starting even then to recognize octaves on the keyboard (notes which are the same pitch, but located in a higher or lower register.)

C: How do you get your ideas or inspirations for music?

DL: My inspirations are found in a few different ways. The first and most common is through concentration. What used to be purely emulation has now turned into thoughtful concentration with respect to who I may be writing music for (players,) sometimes occasions and audiences, and settings (where it will be performed.)
The second is from our vast world of recorded works. I listen to the music that I love and try to continue to seek the sounds which I love as well.
The 3rd and final is from the instruments. The reason I say this is because I do try to avoid using the natural mechanics of the instruments to create my music. This keeps things fresh and challenging for everyone. If I just sat all day and wrote music that was easy to play on the cello or trombone, then I wouldn't be coming up with anything new. However, it is important to document the discoveries which are unique to your own personality and playing style on the instruments.

C: You have collaborated and performed with top artists such as Yoko Ono,Stephen Spielberg.
How did your experience there influence your subsequent music career?

DL: It is always fascinating and exciting to see someone who is an obvious icon in many ways as well as someone who has had a long life of success.
Experiences such as the previous re-affirm that there is still room to grow no matter who you are.
Before I met Stephen Spielberg, I had heard rumors that he had many childlike mannerisms and was always inquisitive and eager to learn from everyone. I had the chance to meet him when we worked on his movie “The Terminal” together and it was very true.
I always continue to seek the sounds that I love. When I see a player who delivers something I like, I don’t let the opportunity pass by. I am fortunate to say that I am surrounded by the most talented community I could ever imagine. Like Mr. Spielberg, I don’t hesitate to ask questions and those that know me are aware that I make a point to internalize the answers, continuously creating stepping stones for my development.

C: How do you think on today's New York music scene? What is happening now?

DL: Living in New York has never been easy, and for an artist, forget about it.
There is no concrete objective & such a lifestyle life is difficult for anyone to gauge.
The states of mind which are created by all of my surroundings directly affect my output. I am greatly affected by the physical feeling in my head.
I hear many complaints from people who worry about the government, about job turnover rates, about gentrification, lack of funding for the arts, misappropriation of our tax dollars, and the list goes on. Though these are all factors taking toll on our community and our arts scene, there are many positive things going on as well. I try to concentrate on finding people who still truly believe in supporting good music passionately. With so much new technology popping up, it is hard to tell what direction we are going to head in as a society, but I am finding enough like-minded young people taking initiative as well as some fantastic talent that I eagerly await the outcome.
New York still means the highest level of execution, variety, symbiosis of heritage and culture, and opportunity.

C: What is the important thing to work as a musician in New York?

DL: For me, if life isn't getting better each day, then it's time for change.
The same things still apply to my lifestyle and to my work as the day I came to the city. These very basic things will stick with me for a long time. For me some of the top things to remember are: Work towards your dreams, always work your hardest and show your best, continue to learn and update yourself, and be persistent.

C: When you are performing in the live show, what are you feeling?

DL: Performing is a wonderful part of my life. Though I can never predict how I may feel in the future, in many ways I feel it is the crossing of the relationship that one would have in a romantic setting, mixed with the excitement, teamwork, competition, and adrenaline involved in a sports match. Sometimes you’re leading, following, supporting, sometimes matching, but also presenting. True music is not dying, however the exposure of true performers is.

C: Tell us about debut album entitled "LEAVING NEW YORK"

DL: I released my debut CD independently in March of 2006.
The title of my first record "LEAVING NEW YORK"is a metaphoric symbol of our gift of music to the world. We don't create music for ourselves or for the confines of the walls within our city, yet for everyone everywhere.
It features some of my favorite musicians together performing my original songs. With this CD I covered a lot of ground. I always wanted to lead my own band as well as compose my own songs which would naturally fuse my love for Chamber Music, Cinematic Harmony, and catchy grooves.
Cinematic Harmony is a description I use with the album which refers to the lush dramatic orchestral sound that you hear in many blockbuster movies. However, we are also added a lot of elements from funk and groove with the integration of B3 Organ, Moog Keyboards, and Drums.
I'm very happy with the way it came out and everyone did a great job. I am already well on my way to finishing my second album which shows a much funkier side of my musical tastes.

C: Tell us about recent project.

DL: I produce a monthly series at The Jazz Gallery in New York where I have brought in a fantastic array of talents to play my music. I like to find people that are great at what they do and many times that means that they are truly original from the ground up as far as where they are from around the world and the instruments that they play such as Claudia Acuna (Vocal) from Chile, Edmar Castaneda (Harp) from Colombia, Jason Lindner (Piano) from NYC, Baba Israel (Rapper) NYC, Miya Masaoka (Koto) Japan/NYC, and Josh Roseman (Trombone) NYC to name just a few.
I hope to continue to find people who inspire me to become better at what I want to learn.
My next immediate goal is to finish my 2nd album soon!
I am looking forward to a day in the future when people get to know me as someone they enjoy, but have to Keep up with.



Born in San Francisco. He had learned musical skill at an early age under the tutelage of his mother who is Japanese. He studied classical cello and jazz trombone at the Manhattan School of Music. Since then,he has performed and recorded with top artists such as Paquito D'Rivera(clarinet),Dafnis Prieto(drum-set),Henry Threadgill(saxophone). He has also performed in Steven Spielberg's feature film"The Terminal". His debut album entitled "LEAVING NEW YORK" is coming out in March of 2006. "DANA LEONG IS A YAMAHA ARTIST AND PLAYS YAMAHA TROMBONES, HE IS ONE OF THE YOUNGEST MUSICIANS TO BE SIGNED TO YAMAHA's EXTREMELY SELECTIVE ROSTER."



interview by Chihiro TAKAHASHI
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