1. What is your name and your profession(s)? Tangelene Bolton
2. What is your ethnic background and what is your citizenship (US native or naturalized etc.)? I am a mixed Filipina-American.
3. Are either/both of your parents musicians or somehow involved in the music industry? My parents both play a little bit of music for fun. My mom sings and plays guitar, ukulele, and harmonica, sometimes with a local folk band in NJ. My dad gets on the piano from time to time. He played a lot of ragtime growing up and taught me a few fun tunes. I’m lucky to have parents who always encouraged me to explore creatively through music and art.
4. Please tell us a little bit about your experience, either growing up as an AAPI in America, or as a person of Asian descent who immigrated to America, whichever applies. I am a mixed race Filipina-American. My mother immigrated to the U.S. from the Philippines at age 23. She first moved to San Francisco and then eventually to Southern California where she met my father over a decade later.
I was born in SoCal but grew up in a primarily Jewish and Italian neighborhood in New Jersey. My public school experience wasn’t incredibly diverse, but I still managed to have friends of different races and ethnicities. Since people didn’t know what ethnicity I was, I had a unique experience in the way that I related with others and could move pretty fluidly between different groups, but it also created a lot of confusion in my identity because I never knew where I fit in. I wasn’t “Asian” enough, “Filipino” enough, or “white” enough.
5. How connected do you feel to your heritage/culture(s)? I embrace my Filipino roots and am proud to be a Filipina! My mother is strong, passionate and resilient and these are the things that she has instilled in me. I have distinct memories of my birthday parties as a kid, leaping up at the “pabitin” which is the Filipino version of a “piñata”. It is made of racks of bamboo with strings of toys and goodies that hang from it. An adult pulls the “pabitin" up and down as all of the kids try and jump, grab and pull down a toy or goodie. I always felt so proud to play this game at my birthday parties and to see all of my friends having so much fun. I love Filipino food and always did growing up. My mother is Ilocano and she always cooks us our favorite dish, Pinakbet, which is Indigenous and from the Northern part of the Philippines, where my mother is from. Pinakbet is basically a mixed vegetable stew with pork. She uses fresh veggies from her garden, things like: eggplant, lots of bitter melon, long beans, okra, garlic, spicy green peppers and tomatoes. She also adds in the best part, either bacon or hot dogs! :) We eat our Pinakbet topped with salted duck egg, my favorite or sometimes with canned sardines in tomatoes. It is such a potent and incredibly healthy dish and every time my mother makes it or I make it, my soul instantly feels so warm and comforted.
6. 6a.) How did you get into music? Did you major in music in college? Where did you attend college/university (and grad school(s), if applicable) and in what subjects did you get your degree(s)? I’ve always been surrounded by music. As a kid, I used to run around my backyard with my Fisher-Price tape recorder singing and making up tunes. At the age of 2, I learned how to play the piano from my Lola (Grandma). My first song was “Jingle Bells” and she taught me how to play it on my pointer finger so I could entertain everyone just in time for Christmas. I also took classical piano lessons from local teachers in my early years and then continued by training at the Westminster Conservatory of Music in middle school and high school. In my teens, I wanted to be a film director so I started making short films on my camcorder for fun and would edit in my favorite film scores. This is where I discovered the storytelling power of music in a film. I did my first year of college at Hampshire College to explore many different subjects and then ended up at Berklee College of Music, where I graduated with a Bachelor of Music degree in Film Scoring.
6b.) When and how did you decide you were going to pursue music professionally? What were your parents’ reactions to you deciding to pursue music? Do they support your music career now? My parents have always been strong proponents of me doing what I love as long as I work extremely hard at it and always follow through. I’m lucky to have been surrounded by such supportive parents who always encouraged me to be the leader of my own life and to lead with passion and extreme drive.
7. What are a few of your (music) projects of which you are the proudest? What were your roles on those projects? Beyond those projects, please feel free to name some of your other credits as well as any brands/companies you officially endorse. Scoring the music for Walt Disney Animation’s, “Just a Thought” was a proud moment because it was my first time working with a major studio as a solo composer. I got goosebumps every time I went into the Disney Animation building and love how the score turned out. I also recently wrote the original score for a short film called, “Let’s Be Tigers” for Disney Live Action. It’s about a girl named Avalon who is grieving for her mother. But when she is put in charge of a 4-year old for the night, she finds more comfort than she could have ever imagined. It will be streaming on Disney+ on May 28 as a part of the Launchpad series. This was a very special and personal project to me and one of my favorite scores I’ve written so far.
8. Describe to me your dream project. A TV series that is extremely character driven and focuses on our future in an eerie way. I would love to score something like “Raised by Wolves” on HBO. And of course, anything Disney! I also love the shows that Freeform is putting out like “Everything’s Gonna Be Okay” and how it tackles life in such a raw, real, yet completely fun and humorous way. But most of all, I love films about extreme loneliness and the complexities of our minds and emotions. Films about dealing with internal turmoil. I would love to score a project that deals with these issues and create a score that mimics the haunting yet beautiful intricacies of our minds.
9. What are some obstacles you have encountered (if any) being an AAPI in the music world? What are some obstacles you have encountered (if any) as an AAPI in general (non-music)? Conversely, has being an AAPI ever helped you in the music industry? Since I am a brown Asian and mixed race, I have always struggled with the feeling of not belonging and having others improperly dictating what I am. The question of, “Oh what are you?” or “You’re so exotic!” were things I’ve always been told growing up and things I’m still told to this day. It’s a reminder of feeling other and that I don’t belong. Now I just say to that, “So what…I don’t quite fit the mold, that’s what makes me unique.”
10. 10a.) Who are some AAPI musicians/composers/producers who have previously inspired and currently inspire you (if any)? Why? Joe Hisaishi
10b.) What are your hopes for the AAPI music community and your hopes for AAPIs in general? That the world can start seeing how much talent there is within the AAPI community.
11. If you could give advice now to your younger teenage self, what would you tell her/him/they? Be proud of who you are and what you have to share. You’re not alone in the complexities of your thoughts and experiences and your music can be a way of healing yourself and others.
12. Do you have any upcoming projects for which you are excited and about which you are allowed to share? Is there anything non-music-related on the horizon about which you would like to share? I recently wrote the original music score for Walt Disney Studios, “Let’s Be Tigers” which will be premiering on May 28th on Disney+ as a part of the Launchpad shorts series. I am incredibly proud of this project and the music that I wrote for it.
13. Name one or two non-music-related things/subjects about which you are also passionate. Cooking, when I can. I go through phases…I’m either cooking up a storm or trying out new food from different local restaurants here in LA. I love all types of cuisines and I’m not picky at all when it comes to food. But, when I have the time to cook, it’s extremely therapeutic. It gives me the chance to breathe and just be present in the moment, like music does for me.
14. Any final thoughts? Alternatively, do you have any questions for me and/or the greater AAPI music community? Let’s show Hollywood our distinct voices and be the ones in control our own narratives.
Spotify: Tangelene Bolton
Soundcloud: Tangelene Bolton
Photos provided by Tangelene Bolton