WORKING HIS WAY UP
IU alum Roddy Chiong on tour with Shania Twain
by Chris Jesse
Like most young people, Roddy Chiong dreamt about the perfect job when he was a kid. He envisioned himself either being a zoologist or a guitar player in a rock band. Through hard work, persistence and a strong faith in God, Chiong has been able to earn something close to one of his dream jobs. With his never-ending passion and drive for success, he would have made an excellent zoologist, but an amazing entertainer emerged instead.
Chiong isn't playing guitar in a rock band, but is currently on tour as a musician and vocalist with arguably the most popular female country singer, Shania Twain. The IU alum recently spoke with Weekend in a face-to-face interview.
Q: How many people are in your family?
A: My sister is a doctor in Chicago. My two parents live in Schaumburg, Ill.
Q: What is your favorite song that you play for Shania?
A: We don't do my favorite song in the concert anymore -- "Black Eyes, Blue Tears."
Q: Do you have any pre-show rituals?
A: Twenty minutes of stretching and some light cardio work.
Q: What is a typical tour day like?
A: Wake up in a hotel, work out, e-mails, read at Starbucks, lunch, soundcheck, meetings, concert.
Q: What is it like working with famous people like Shania, Mel Gibson and Celine Dion?
A: At first, it was surreal working with "famous" people. The fame thing is faded now, and I see them as being very respectable for being "hard workers." No famous person just coasts there. To get there and stay current in the public eye, it takes an amazing amount of hard work and focus. Hopefully, their work ethic rubs off on me!
Q: Is there anything you wish you would have done differently?
A: Made more phone calls fearlessly. But the few I made gave way to some progress!
Q: At the Indianapolis concert last October you said something like "I remember driving on I-465 around Indy in my beat up car hoping for a cool job one day." Do you have that "cool job" yet?
A: I was actually praying, and yes, this was a cool job God gave me.
Q: Is this job more than you expected?
A: Yes, bigger than I was originally expecting. Bigger in size, duration and benefits.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to add?
A: If you want something in life, no one else is going to get you there except for you. Go for experience, contacts and growth -- not money. Do what your heart is telling you to do. Go to where action is -- not where it is comfortable. Live lean and mean (think Southwest Airlines, not United). This means no debt, paying yourself first, always keeping the pipeline flowing (some kind of earnings coming in). Never spend more than your income and be frugal. This will give you options.
As a multi-talented musician, Chiong can play the guitar, mandolin, piano and percussion, but he is most recognized for his violin and fiddle playing, which he does on tour for Shania Twain and Celine Dion.
Chiong, a 1993 graduate of Indiana University, earned an associate's degree in Audio Technology and a bachelor's degree in Telecommunications with a minor in African-American Studies.
While at IU, Chiong took part in a few major campus events. From 1990 to 1992, he rode in the Men's Little 500 for Wilkie and Team College Life. Scars from a crash serve as visible reminders of this feat. Chiong was also a performer in IU Sing.
"IU allowed me to interact with many types of people -- good, bad and gifted in different areas. I was able to find my niche eventually through the shaping of interactions with different people," says Chiong.
One day while walking through IU's School of Journalism Library, Chiong happened upon a book entitled "How to Get Into Television Commercials." This book, which can still be found in the library, is "kinda where it all started," he says. When Chiong was younger, his mother bought him a book called "The 100 Best Companies to Work For." Since his graduation, he has already built up an impressive list of performances and appearances for his résumé.
Besides performing on tour with Twain and Dion, Chiong has also performed on a Jars of Clay tour, on "Oprah" and "Entertainment Tonight" as a featured violinist, and he had minor roles in "Payback," "My Best Friend's Wedding" and "Chain Reaction."
Even though Chiong enjoys touring and performing, he is open to other opportunities that may come his way.
"Acting is my next adventure," says Chiong.
Check Roddy Chiong out online at www.roddyonline.com.