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Meet Angelica Tan

Today we’d like to introduce you to Angelica Tan.

Angelica, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I’ve been called the Singing Accountant by my friends but I guess in more descriptive terms I’m a Public Accountant (specifically an Auditor) and a Singer/Bandleader on the side. I grew up being a part of a local theater group called Biola Youth Theater and studied opera/musical theater vocals under a Professor from APU named Dr. Beverly Crain. Things changed coming into college, as my parents wanted me to focus on a career that pertained to supporting myself financially. They nonetheless supported my decisions but were concerned that the Performing Arts alone was a hard industry to break into. This soon translated to me becoming an Economics and Business Admin major in college and later on getting a Masters in Accounting. My reasoning: to succeed in the arts by supporting myself as the best businesswoman that I could be.

During this journey of college and grad school, I never stopped doing what I loved – whether it be singing for an open mic at a coffee shop, creating a 10-minute set for a charity organization, or being part of a student-run play. I entered any small artists’ competitions I could find and even won a few awards here and there. I did all of this on the side as a creative outlet to keep me sane while studying and then working in the corporate world. While working a 9-5 job, I figured out a way to gig and manage a band in my free time. Getting paid to perform was always a goal of mine, and now I’m happy to say I sing professionally.

Has it been a smooth road? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Definitely a struggle to balance two different resumes at the same time. I was essentially building myself from the ground up in two contrasting worlds. And I still am, in many ways.

Accounting is the language of Business, and the foundation of Entrepreneurship. This was the main reason I became a Public Accountant. In this profession you are constantly learning about companies and their business models, meeting with corporate leaders to discuss their market strategies, and analyzing their financial statements to make sure they’re accurate. One CFO I met put it as, we’re the doctors explaining the health of the company. But to land a Public Accounting job with any top firm is a pretty competitive environment. I worked my way from a cashier in retail, a billing call-center for hotels, a staff accountant, to becoming an Associate at a firm. There were for sure those times I broke down because I was so tired from working while going to grad school or stressed of not knowing where I’d be after graduation. All things aside, taking everything I learned in the Accounting Industry helped me understand the Music Business, and certainly comes in handy whenever my musician friends have questions on tax and business administration.

Working so much, I began to realize that I was losing a part of myself that wasn’t healthy. I wanted to stay motivated and relive what I used to do in college, where I could study and still sing on the side. I would ask myself questions like, how do I keep the ball rolling in the art world? Do I want to keep doing open-mics for 5 minutes? What is the next step based on my current repertoire right now? I finally started with a goal of: I think it would be cool to be paid to sing, like for a wedding or something. This became my day-dream while working at a desk, in front of a computer. And then one day, my brother was looking for live music for his high school and I had an idea to put a band together. Starting any business and doing your first gig is never easy, but looking back I learned that asking the right questions, being passionate, and meeting wholesome people help you get to where you want to be. I’m beyond thankful for everyone I’ve met in this journey of music so far. Flashback to me and my band’s very first prom, long story short – we got kids dancing, got paid, and out of all of it, I got a music family. Soon we were booked for other high schools and production companies to do Homecomings and Proms, and now it’s my little side-hustle business!

We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
As a singer, I started doing jazz because it’s a foundation for R&B, Funk, and Hip-Hop. Sometimes I’ll choose songs that fuse them together. I don’t like to box myself in specific genres since I studied technique that was completely different from all of that. Whether I’m doing something classical, pop, or jazzy, I always like to change it up to grow as a performer. Currently I am in the works of making new music, music videos, and hoping to perform at more live venues around LA!

Gig-wise I’m super proud to represent the Homecoming and Prom scenes, because I care a lot about the education system and making nights for these students memorable. It’s also a good way for me and my band to practice a variety of music. Sometimes we’ll get called for a Jazz-themed Prom, other times it could be Rock. What sets us apart is that we really put what the students want first, and make sure that everyone is having a good time and dancing. It’s creating memories for an audience that sometimes is seeing a concert for the first time. I was never that kid in school that got to go to a live show, so to bring it to the high school scene, is something I’m passionate about. I will never forget the one dance that a group of students requested Giant Steps by Coltrane, which for some reason got a crowd jumping. Me and the musicians I work with started doing this after graduating college, and it’s eye-opening to be able to reach out and show pre-college students interested in studying music, that they can do things like this and lead their own shows too. For the kids that requested Coltrane, it was inspiring to hear that we really made their night (even got asked to take photos with them) – because they were all in their school’s Jazz Ensemble.

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
Two of my favorite quotes that I live by is “Once a task is just begun, never leave it till it’s done”, from Quincy Jones and “The more socially conscious you are, the better the work you make”, from Ali Wong. The way I interpret them both is standing up for what you believe in. For me, I do the arts because I strongly believe in community, education, and work-life balance.

I think it’s important to share having a work-life balance since many people in the corporate world tend to get busy and forget to take breaks. For Public Accountants it’s busy seasons, which requires working at least 60 hours a week. (I’ve heard horror stories of even 90 hours!) I think mental health is super important in any field you work in, and for me, having a creative outlet is essential to me being the best Accountant I can be.

Social Activism is a bug I caught in college and is a huge motivation for me to keep doing what I love to do in music because it’s what brings people together. One of my favorite projects I did for my 23rd birthday was a charity show for a local theater to raise $1,500 for the STEAM Movement. I’ve always believed that doing the arts has been double-sided, especially in the visual performing arts world. On one hand it’s fun for you, the performer, but on the other, you’re doing it for a purpose too. I believe the best artists are the ones that are socially aware of what they are doing and why they are doing it.

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Image Credit:

Photographers – (Instagram), Karen Santos (@karen__santos), Jacob Luna (@jayymoon_), Farhan Kamdar (@kamdarfarhan), Jordan Jimenez (@jordanmjimenez)

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