There are those who believe success is an abstract concept—one we could argue about till we no longer have breath to argue with. And we would still not come any closer to a definitive answer.
Success is a subjective term, different in the eyes of different people.
Some see success as reaching a particular point in their career or making a certain amount of money. Others believe they need to be famous or popular to be successful. There are those who measure success with another abstract concept, love. Being able to love despite differences, showing love and being loved in return, etc.
For Billy Cen, as a musician, success is about connection and community.
When he used to work for Amazon as an investigation specialist, he wasn’t happy with his job. When he woke up, he put on his Bluetooth headphones and listened to “Someone in the Crowd” from the movie La La Land. This became like a ritual to help him get through the day.
As this routine continued every morning, he went through a sort of rediscovery of his love for music.
At Coachella 2018, Billy was introduced to Daniel Caesar, an R&B/Soul artist with smooth vocals and melodic beats. It was amazing for Billy to see Caesar “do his own thing,” to spread love through his music.
It gave Billy hope. As someone who had been a little self-conscious about his voice, listening to an artist with a similar vocal range encouraged him.
Caesar got him thinking, “Maybe I can be a singer after all, and I can accept my voice, my range, as it is.”
As a kid, Billy loved to sing Chinese karaoke songs with his parents. In the fifth grade, he picked up the clarinet and played till the tenth grade. When he attended the University of Washington, he enrolled in a few music and choir classes. He later joined the school’s a capella group, UW Men’s Glee, in his sophomore year.
In school, Billy tried and failed to become an electrical engineering major like his parents wanted him to be. He may or may not have shed a few tears.
Inching towards graduation, he decided to study sociology, examining the intersection of social interaction and culture in everyday life. The concepts and principles he learned stuck with him and continue to stay with him as he pursues a career in music.
“We all come from different backgrounds,” Billy explained. “We have a tendency to make assumptions about people but we need to respect each other. We need to start listening to each other.”
He believes no matter who you are as a person, we as a people should come together and build a community. And this is exactly what he hopes to achieve through his music.
While the goal is to make a career out of his music, the dream and vision is to encourage relationships between people. He wants to always have the time to create new music, to create something that can be there for those who are struggling or are feeling down.
He knows what it’s like to feel loneliness, as I’m sure many other people do too. But music has been the one thing that grounds him and keeps him from closing in on himself.
He wants to build a community of people who appreciate music, who can “fall into their emotions,” cope with their emotions, and understand their emotions.
Billy believes that music is “a great catalyst for perpetuating community through storytelling and for the sharing of mutual emotions.”
He wants to create a network for people to build new relationships within a musical community.
“I want my music to be a bridge to connect people, to help create a community where people feel like they belong,” Billy said.
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