At first glance, you would never expect that soft-spoken Joen Lee could throw down a mean R&B rap.
Lee is the President of Effusion, one of McGill’s a cappella ensembles, and has devoted many hours to maintaining the well-oiled music-making machine.
Lee plays the “mama figure” in the group, and has used this year to integrate the “newbies” into the long established Effusion family.
“[There’s been] a lot of trying to get that ‘family vibe’ and really solidifying our dynamic […] because chemistry is so important,” Lee explained. “By developing that family vibe, good music comes from that.”
What sets Effusion apart from other McGill clubs, according to Lee, is their professional nature; the group can be booked for private events such as weddings and tours. They are a company rather than just a tight-knit singing group.
“We have so many gigs,” Lee said proudly. “Google hires us. We recently did a gig with FIFA [….] We are very much in a sense our own private business.”
Consequently, she has also become a sort of manager for the troupe.
“[I’m] always trying to interact with other people and liaise with other people, [but] at the same time, maintain the integrity of the group […] and maintain that professionalism, not just in the way we dress, [but] in our interactions and different things,” Lee said.
Not all of Lee’s work as president has been external; this year required a lot of organization for an influx of new members into the a cappella family.
“[There was] more internal work as well—organizing and coordinating each individual member and our schedule,” she said.
Her emphasis was on the dynamics of the group—to create the best possible relationships between members so they could perform to their best ability as one cohesive voice.
“I think as president, my first mandate was to be in tune with each [member], to be really in sync—that was my main goal,” Lee said. “In the beginning of the semester, we actually did very few gigs just to work on us [.…] A proper foundation was [one of] my goals as president.”
Lee also took some new initiatives for the group this year.
“[We] got a really awesome recording together through a friend of mine,” she said. “[We’ve been] doing things we don’t usually do, [but] not too many changes because I think Effusion is all about tradition.”
Lee’s capacity as president has crossover from the Effusion scope and manifested itself in other areas of her life as well.
“[Presidency] has allowed me to grow so much personally,” she said. “The biggest thing for me is communication and presentation [.…] I think that has also made me learn to be more comfortable in my own skin—the fact that you’re on stage singing in front of hundreds of people.”
As Lee’s last weeks as a McGill student and as the president of Effusion dwindle down, there are some things she’ll take forward with her.
“You [interact] with all these professionals, adults, and groups of people most of the time, that you normally wouldn’t get to as a university student,” she said. “I think communication is a big [takeaway] for me […] it will apply, definitely, to other places—whatever I get into.”
McGill Tribune: What artist—living or dead—would you love to perform with?
Joen Lee: “I love classic jazz musicians. Ella Fitzgerald would be my favourite.”
MT: What’s your favourite shade of blue?
MT: Do you have a party trick?
JL: I’ve never rapped before in my life, but [in] the Fall I wanted to try it. In “Everybody’s Got Their Something” there’s a part that I rapped for and it was such a shocker for this little Asian girl to come in rapping.
MT: Pizza party or pastry party?
JL: Oooh, pastry party.
MT: What is your favourite song to sing when no one is listening?
JL: “6, 8, 12” by Brian Knight.