Tim Lin Interview
1. What is your name and your profession(s)?
Timothy Lin, Jazz Saxophonist
2. What is your ethnic background and what is your citizenship?
I am American born, Taiwanese
3. Are either/both of your parents musicians or somehow involved in the music industry?
Neither of my parents are musicians. My dad works for the Fire Department at City Hall and my mom was an accountant, now retired.
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 was born in the United States, but growing up, my grandparents raised me while my mother was working full time and my dad was finishing his PhD in Engineering at Utah State. So communication wise, I was bi-lingual from the get- go! I believe that learning both Mandarin and English in my early youth helped my development as an aspiring musician, because jazz music is a language! So in some ways, I think I am tri-lingual in English, Mandarin, and Jazz!
5. How connected do you feel to your heritage/culture(s)?
My parents and family were poor since they immigrated from Taiwan with almost no money, so I grew up with a lot of cultural values of being thrifty with money, saving as much as you can, and a general rags to riches mindset. My dad would always remind me that a penny saved is a penny earned, and I would also see him pick up loose change in parking lots or anytime he saw money on the floor, regardless of the mount. If he saved one penny, he was richer than before. And to me, that mindset and way of thinking affected me a lot. My father was all about growing from nothing into something, and I can attest that his values about this really connected with me long term. When I was in high school, I was a huge sneaker head. I had nothing from the beginning in terms of collection but would shop at thrift stores and restore shoes from worn to almost brand new condition.
I would re-sell rare Air Jordans and eventually had one of the biggest shoe collections in my high school. And nowadays, I do that with saxophones. When I first started playing saxophone (my passion), I had one instrument. Now, I run a business where I buy, restore, trade and sell vintage saxophones as a passive side hustle so I can support my musical endeavors. I grew up in a small suburban town called Fremont. As a city, it had one of most rigorous and academically challenging high school programs in the country and many of my friends and myself resented. We were always studying and stressed out with tests and exams. There wasn’t much time during the weekends from what I can remember, because most families were bombarding their kids with extra curricular activities. There was also an unspoken feeling of judgment at all times. Like if you didn’t do well on a test or weren’t the top of your class, you were looked down. Everyone was competitive with each other academically. And in a lot of ways, that pushed me away from wanting to be a good student. I was a decent student, graduated with 3.6 GPA unweighted, but never really gave my all in academics. I wanted to be different, and that is what drew me to jazz music.
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 majored in music in college. My college experience was wild and all over the place. I went to UCLA for two years in my undergrad, had senior standing my sophomore year and wanted to be challenged so I auditioned for the Eastman School of Music in Rochester and got a scholarship there. When I got there, I flunked out of my classes because it was too rigorous in terms of classical theory, and they gave me Freshmen standing so I left. I took a gap year and took some classes at the local community college, then got a scholarship to USC Thornton School of Music where I finished my music degree (BM in Jazz Performance). It was a long 5 year track for me.
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?
I decided I was going to pursue music my senior year in high school. My parents were really hesitant about it and knew I wasn’t ready for a conservatory yet so they told me to first apply for UC and local colleges. I applied to all the schools in the UC system, so I could try and first get a well-rounded education instead of going to a music conservatory. At first, my parents were hesitant and constantly nervous about me going to college and studying jazz, but they are completely supportive now after the years of hearing me practice countless hours and now making a good debut CD that is doing well.
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.
I just recorded my first album which you can listen to on Spotify, BandCamp, or Apple Music. You can also purchase a physical CD off my website at timlinmusic.com. I am proud that my first album “Romance in Formosa” has been featured on four official Spotify playlists “All New Jazz”, “Fresh Finds Jazz”, “Jazzy Dinner”, and “Brunch Jazz”. I have received over 100k streams of my album and have over 30k monthly listeners. Companies I am currently endorsing include D’Addario Reeds, Marco Magi Italian Saxophone Cases, AEA Ribbon Microphones, and Weissenberg Saxophone Products.
8. 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 or in general?
If you ever go watch a jazz show, most of the performers are either black or white. That is just the truth of the industry. There are a small pool of asian jazz players in the overall jazz industry. I think the biggest thing is just being taken seriously. Many jazz players from all over the world come to NYC or America to learn how to play jazz and perform, and to be completely succinct, very little of them succeed in the long run and become noticed as stars. Its a cut-throat industry. You have to be so good that regardless of race, you are noticed for how exceptional your talent and skills are on your instrument. Jazz is a very historical music rooted in America which has been centered around black and white culture since its creation in the history of music. So to be an Asian person and try to fit into an industry that isn’t natural in your heritage in itself is a challenge. I’m sure the same goes for Asians who are trying to find their way in Hollywood.
9. 9a.) Who are some AAPI musicians/composers/producers who have previously inspired and currently inspire you (if any)? Why?
There are a couple great Asian jazz musicians that I admire greatly.
Jon Irabagon - first Philippino American to win the Thelonious Monk Institute Jazz Competition, he is an exceptional saxophonist and has become a great friend over the years.
David Wong - half Polish, half Chinese jazz bass player who plays in the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra in NYC and plays with all the top names. He is one of the first call NYC jazz bebop bass players and is completely disconnected from social media as well (a feat in itself!)
9b.) What are your hopes for the AAPI music community and your hopes for AAPIs in general?
I hope people continue pursuing their own goals and dreams regardless of their culture, heritage, or what they were born into. If you are passionate about something, just go for it. Don’t let anything else get in your way, because if you do, you will live a life of regret. And as we all know, you only have one life, so the worst feeling would be wishing you did something when it becomes too late to.
10. Name one or two non-music-related things/subjects about which you are also passionate.
Basketball - played all my life, huge NBA fan of the Lakers
Eating - constant foodie; I don’t cook, so I am always trying different restaurants. I spend all my money on DoorDash. Coffee gets me going in the morning!!!
11. Any final thoughts? Alternatively, do you have any questions for me and/or the greater AAPI music community?
Thank you so much for featuring me and so many other creative individuals on your blog and instagram channel. I hope to continue following your posts and see what other individuals are bringing to the table and hope we can all rise above and continue following our dreams and visions.
Support Tim online :)
Spotify: Tim Lin
Image courtesy of Tim Lin