We had the good fortune of connecting with Wongdegger Duo and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Wongdegger, every day, we about how much execution matters, but we think ideas matter as well. How did you come up with the idea for your business?
Our idea is to use our classical piano background to put traditional ethnic music into a modern setting. We create a fusion by performing ethnic music on piano, a modern sounding instrument, so that these cultures can be mainstream and experienced as present day art. In our duo, we create our own culturally diverse arrangements and present them in conjunction with classical Western music. We want people to listen and we are willing to be innovative and flexible to create music that speaks to our audiences.

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
A little background about us: Esme is from Sarawak, Borneo, Malaysia. She grew up similar to many others in Sarawak speaking three languages and different Chinese dialects, which is common in Borneo. She was surrounded by indigenous Sarawakian music, contemporary Malay culture, and Eurasian influence that stems from the remnants of British colonialism. Jacob is a native of San Antonio, TX with a diverse family background that filled his life with influence from Hispanic, European, American, and Brazilian cultures. Coincidentally, Jacob developed an interest in Southeast Asian music through his musical upbringing and has performed in a Balinese Gamelan ensemble for several years. With our musical fusion and intention, we want to encourage people to be curious and discover more about Southeast Asian culture, specifically that of Borneo. The biggest lesson and our motto is to be honest and authentic in our arts. We learn and love ethnic music for its authenticity, purity, and soul, as it reaches so close to the heart of the performers. The music is all about life lessons and passed down traditions, and represents the heart and soul of these communities. We are strong advocates for being global citizens and we use our art as an action to directly impact society and local communities. For instance, we have recently raised awareness for anti-racism against Asians through our social media, advocated bi-racial couple lifestyle through the social cause: Wear Yellow Proudly, and helped raise funds to rebuild SMK St. Teresa, a local government school of Kuching, Malaysia. As a global citizen and artist, music is one of the best ways we know to express emotional catharsis and bring joy and hope to others.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I would always recommend visiting Denton for their amazing coffee shops and bars. Some of our favorites are Golden Boy Coffee Co., Paschall Bar, Jupiter House, and West Oak Coffee Bar. We love to eat hot pot, so Sichuan Folk in Plano is always our #1 recommendation for Asian food. There are so many great happy hour spots in Dallas, but one of the best we have been to is Parliament in Dallas (Happy Hour 5-8pm and anytime it rains!). The Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden is also an amazing place to relax and absorb scenery, if it’s not too hot!

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Jacob Nydegger – I would like to shoutout to both Blanca Rodriguez – my childhood piano teacher – and my mother. Blanca always inspired and stretched my musical perspective by introducing me to classical music by Latin composers. I studied a traditional piano curriculum but was always learning and performing music by composers from Argentina, Mexico, Cuba, or Spain. I am grateful to have been exposed to different types of music and to find inspiration in cultures that are underrepresented in the classical music canon. I am secondly grateful to my mother who taught me strong lessons about discipline and pushed me to never give up on something that means so much to you, even when you feel the world is telling you to give up. Esme Wong – I want to shout out to my mom who was my first piano teacher. I grew up with my mom directing choirs, musicals, and running a music studio of almost 400 students. She always involved us throughout her musical productions and she is passionate about helping her community. She organized concerts to raise funds for local schools, autistic societies, and raised funds to donate computers to local Chinese community schools. She leads children, youth, and adult choirs, and has brought these choirs for performance and community outreach to countries such as the Philippines, Cambodia, and South Korea. Leading by example, my mom has taught me the importance of community work and how to be a global citizen.

Website: https://www.wongdeggerduo.com/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jacobnydegger/ , https://www.instagram.com/esmewong/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/esmewongpiano/ , https://www.facebook.com/JacobNydegger/
Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/c/JacobNydeggerPiano
Other: https://open.spotify.com/artist/06OEA46s7Gr3ZHFckM0uSK?si=zdCZjUZ7QWqUzYHNwTrmzQ

Image Credits
Abi Poe Photography

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