By KIT B. FASSLER
Many musicians begin learning their art at a young age, but Pima Community College vocal instructor Jonathan Ng first joined a church choir when he was a high school senior.
“Before joining the choir, I had no musical training whatsoever,” Ng said. “I learned how to play piano and how to sing starting my first year of college.”
Ng grew up in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, a name given to the city of Hong Kong and its surrounding region. The SAR was defined in a 1984 agreement signed between Britain and China as part of preparations for the Hong Kong handover in 1997.
He is the youngest of eight siblings. Although his parents only finished elementary education, they worked very hard to provide for their family.
“My parents were vegetable vendors on the streets of Hong Kong SAR,” Ng said. “I am very proud of how they valued work and how they provided for all of us.”
Ng, a first-generation college graduate, earned a bachelor’s degree in education from the Institute of Education in Hong Kong.
His determination to further his education led him to the United States in 1992. He didn’t speak English nor did he have money to study abroad.
“I kept my head up and plowed through,” he said. “My parents are hard workers and I probably inherited that part of their character.”
Ng was granted scholarships to support his studies. He earned a master’s in conducting and church music from Westminster Choir College at Rider University in Princeton, N.J.
He received his doctorate from Indiana University. He majored in conducting, with minors in vocal performance and pedagogy, music history and literature.
As a professional lyric tenor, Ng has performed in oratorios and operas throughout the United States, Europe and Hong Kong.
One career highlight was conducting at Carnegie Hall in New York City.
“I made my Carnegie Hall debut conducting Vivaldi’s ‘Gloria,’ accompanied by the New England Symphonic Ensemble,” he said.
“The impact of a conductor is extremely huge,” he added.
“The conductor has a profound influence on the players, the singers and the whole musical presentation.”
Ng’s mentor was the late Thomas Dunn, an Indiana University professor who previously served as artistic director for the Handel and Haydn Society of Boston.
“He was a first-class musician and I miss him so much,” Ng said.
Ng started as an adjunct music instructor at Pima in 2011 and began teaching full time in 2014.
Among his other duties, he directs PCC’s Choral and College Singers.
He is also the founder and conductor of the Arizona Choral Society, and served as director of music at Catalina United Methodist Church for 11 years.
When he started teaching at Pima, Ng fell in love with the college and its students. He is amazed that PCC students are engaged, willing to learn and have passion to pursue their dreams despite financial hardships.
“I have been in their shoes,” he said. “My role is to inspire my students to succeed.”
Chad Stephens, a tuba student, has taken voice lessons under Ng.
“He helps you as a singer to find your unique own voice,” Stephens said. “He gets the best out of you.”
Ng believes that people need passion to choose music as a career. He likes to remind his students to improve and to always practice their instruments.
“Being a musician is a difficult career but it is also very rewarding,” he said. “Music is a very important element in people’s lives.”
Ng is preparing for a Feb. 8 concert, titled “Amore,” that will feature love songs from popular musicals and operas.
His vocal repertoire will include “Maria” from West Side Story, “On the Street Where You Live,” from My Fair Lady, the Italian love song “La Serenata” and spirituals. Suzanne Eanes will be the accompanist.
The concert will take place on Sunday, Feb. 8, at 3 p.m. in the PCC Center for the Arts Recital Hall on West Campus.
Tickets are $8, with discounts available.
For further information, call the box office at 206-6986 or visit pima.edu/cfa.
Ng looks forward to bringing excitement and joy to his audience.
“Between conducting and performing, it can be a challenge,” Ng said. “My strategy is always to prepare and plan ahead.”