City Lifestyle

Want to start a publication?

Learn More

Featured Article

Investing in Human Connection

Storyteller and Musician Breathes New Life into Timeless Lyrics

Article by Lindsay Tallman

Photography by Stellar Propeller Studio, LaFaye Photography, J. Chang-Tablada Photography

Originally published in Colorado Springs Lifestyle

As a multi-disciplinary artist and mixed-race Asian American of Filipino, Korean, and Irish descent, J. Chang-Tablada is a musician and storyteller who delights audiences by bringing his love of music and stories to the stage. For 44 years, Chang-Tablada has been playing the piano and singing to bring live music and joy to audiences.

He is a musical director known for his work with the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College, Theatreworks and Millibo Art Theatre. In addition, Chang-Tablada owns J. Chang-Tablada Photography and he’s a creative executive that builds brands under his given name of Jerry McCauley.

How did the name J. Chang-Tablada come about? The J. is for Jerry, and Tablada was the last name of his Filipino grandparents: Carmela Paruginog Tablada and Jose Tablada, who were jazz musicians in Hawaii. Chang is the last name of his Korean grandmother Sook-Kee Chang who married his Irish grandfather, Harold “Mac” McCauley after they met at Pearl Harbor in the early 1940s. She worked on base; he was her manager and they had to get special permission from his grandfather’s commanding officer to marry interracially.

Telling the Story

In an effort to pause for a moment in our fast-paced culture, Chang-Tablada wants his performance, which he refers to as a solo cabaret, to be uplifting and allow the audience to be present and feel deeply. He starts every show with a land acknowledgment to honor ancestors and to honor his Filipino grandparents. They were both children of immigrant sugar cane plantation workers on the island of Kauai and Chang-Tablada is proud of their courage to be BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) artists in a world that wasn’t quite ready for them yet.

Chang-Tablada notes, “A big part of what I share in my cabaret is a journey toward self-acceptance, self-honoring, and love.”

In addition to performing, Chang-Tablada has been involved in musical theater for many years. He’s in his eighth, consecutive season as music director at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College and brings his theater experience to his cabaret show.

For his solo cabaret performance, Chang-Tablada loves presenting timeless, treasured music in a way that forces the audience to really encounter the words. He’s constantly trying to be surprised by lyrics and then thinking of how he can present those lyrics in a way that allows listeners to be surprised by them as well, even if they’ve heard the familiar song for decades.

Songs in the Key of J

His solo cabaret show, “Songs in the Key of J” is a free show with two May performances scheduled in the Deco Lounge of the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College. The performance features music that spans the decades from the 1930s to the pop songs of today.

Chang-Tablada finds wonder and joy in stitching songs together in a new way. He begins with a song from the 1930s that his grandparents sang on stage called “That’s My Desire.” One of his favorite parts of the show is performing a medley of songs featuring mirrors including the Sam Smith song “Love Me More” and “Reflection” from Mulan and “Landslide” from Stevie Nicks. All of this sets up the transition to his original song, “Just Me” which is about finding peace, joy, wholeheartedness and self-worth.

“I’m currently most inspired by the magic of human connection,” he says.

Bringing his own unique twist to all of the music, he wants to empower people to choose themselves and leave feeling connected. He wants people to know that they are enough and hopes his shows are an unexpected gift for the audience.

When asked why he does this work, Chang-Tablada says, “I’m on a quest, to be the human one in the room.”

Facebook + Instagram: @jchangtablada