Dec 4, 2004 changed my life.

I was 24 years old, just a year home from college, working an internship at the Oakland Asian Cultural Center while I was looking for a full time job... and my purpose in life.

At approximately 7pm that Saturday night, I was sitting in the rear orchestra section of the Paramount Theatre by myself, surrounded by grown-ups I didn't know. My boss and mentor, Anne Huang, had given me a ticket to the gospel choir concert that she was in.

I was about to experience my first Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir concert. It was a whirlwind of teal, purple and gold, and people standing up around me, singing and clapping along. What's more, it was exciting to see Asian faces in the mix on stage, and one of those Asian faces was directing - Paul Kim - directing black gospel music! Music that filled my ears, my heart, and my body. I thought: those people on stage, ALL of those people, those are MY people. I auditioned and joined the choir the following year in February, and at 25 years old was the youngest member of the choir at that time. Now, I can't pass as a youth choir member anymore!

10 holiday seasons later, OIGC has been the longest relationship in my adult life. I learned how to sing at the top of my lungs without blowing out my voice. I learned how to draw in my eyebrows at a Slim's concert. I've tasted caviar at a winery gig - the expensive kind. Through OIGC, I met my first boyfriend, and after it ended, I learned that sometimes all you need is a good red lipstick. I've heard my voice fill prestigious venues like the Paramount Theatre and Yoshi's. I went on a lightening trip to NY for the first time to be on a TV show.

 I learned how to change clothes in tight spaces. I've been invited multiple times to record for different projects. I learned how to sing an aria in a month, and grew an appreciation for opera. I've seen the sun rise over the Bay Bridge as 10,000 people run past. And just yesterday, I learned which products work well with curly hair.

And most important of all, I learned how to love myself, to be kind to myself. I learned how to feel comfortable in my own skin. OIGC gave me a safe space to try out my crazy ideas and projects and then be (mostly) successful at them! The Choir let me try out my voice, to say the wrong things, get into conflicts, trip and fall, and then get up, and receive feedback and learn from those mistakes.

I am still learning and looking forward to the things the Choir has yet to teach me, the people I have yet to meet, and the places I have yet to experience. Because OIGC and its members, past and present, love me for exactly who I am, temper tantrums, dorkiness and all, they've helped me be the person that I am today.

Here's to another 10 years!

xoxo, Isa
Alto - Member since 2005
Board of Directors - Secretary - 2009 to 2013
Choir Council - President - 2008 to 2013