Music was no stranger to Ivan Lo’s childhood, having sparked an interest in it at a young age. Now, he is a professional singer-actor with a variety of impressive credentials and his footsteps marking the many different corners of the world his career has taken him. When asked who and what inspired him to pursue music after high school, Ivan credited his uncles who are recording artists, all of his music teachers, including his piano teacher, and our very own Mrs. Caswell! He said if it weren’t for her prompt and support, he might not have taken music all throughout high school and he may not have discovered his initial goal to become a music educator.
As the years went on, Ivan’s voice teacher at the University of Western Ontario, Jackalyn Short, also gave him the big push into his voice performance career that has taken him around the globe and has introduced him to faces in the industry that have made an imprint on him. Ivan has many highlights from his career now, including a 6-month long tour of the show Godspell and a cruise ship performance contract that let him perform on the seas. The cruise ship job took him to Europe for rehearsal, and then sailed from Madagascar, to Mauritius and all the way to the Arctic Circle! He noted Svalbard, Norway where he was able to watch a local all men’s choir performance, meet husky puppies, and experience 24 hour daylight.
Ivan has had the opportunity to perform for schools around Ontario through a more intimate tour of two short plays that allowed thought provoking conversation with the students afterwards. These discussions were about racism, diversity, bullying and other important topics that were shared through performance. He said that these interactions were very special to him and a highlight of his career.
Earlier this year, when the pandemic hit, Ivan was working towards his goal of performing on Broadway in New York City. Unfortunately, Covid-19 has hit the music industry hard, halting the production of all stage performances. However, Ivan is not letting that stop him. He recently just recorded voiceover work for a video game, a project he never thought he’d get into. Even though he isn’t performing on stage or doing concert work, opportunities are still popping up for him. Ivan is back in Toronto now and is working towards a master’s degree in vocal pedagogy as the pandemic has made him realize that teaching has always been a part of his skillset and career. He hopes that when he finishes his master’s degree, even more doors will open for him in the future.
Looking back at the past though, Ivan reminisced on his time in Markham Music. He took music with his best friends and was part of tight-knit choirs in which he had very special years at MDHS. He recalled the dinners between Chamber choir and Third Stream rehearsals fondly. Ivan dedicated a lot of time in the program, volunteering for the music festivals we participated in, the grade 9 retreat, and being a member of the music council. When asked what his favourite moments were, he said, “Every single one!”
We spoke about his professional goals, including his Broadway dream, but he also talked about his biggest desire: to continue sharing music his whole life.
I’d love to be able to sing well into my golden ages. I’d love to just be making music for as long as I can and share it with students, with people who appreciate it as much as I do. That’s really the ultimate goal.”
Ivan offered pieces of advice for aspiring musicians, telling them about some of his own obstacles and how the journey was worth the incredible lifestyle he is now living.
“Be brave. It’s not easy and I’m sure you’ll meet a lot of resistance along the way, as that was the case for me. My parents wanted me to put my eggs in other baskets, for sure. But I don’t regret it. There are so many cool experiences, relationships and lessons that you can learn from pursuing music, or any of the arts, that you might not necessarily get if you were pursuing something else.”
Music has always been a North Star for Ivan, always calling to him. He knew if he didn’t follow that he’d be asking himself “what if” for the rest of his life. He’s glad he didn’t give it up and we’re very proud to have him as a Markham Music alumni. We’d like to thank Ivan for his time and we wish him all the best!