From biology labs to being Cinderella's Prince Charming, then to piracy on the high seas may seem like a big jump in careers, but it just suits young tenor Kwangmin Brian Lee, who's enjoying his role in the Vancover Opera's production of Gilbert and Sullivan's Pirates of Penzance.
Lee says that from his Burnaby school years at Chaffey-Burke, then to graduation from schools in Coquitlam, he never contemplated a career in music, although he was always active in his church choirs.
"I was taking third-year Biology at UBC, and not sure what direction I was going to follow, when my sister gave me the last of some vocal lessons she wasn't going to use. I fell in love with the music, and started taking more private lessons."
His vocal teacher, Taylor T. Fox, suggested he audition for music schools.
That led to music degree at UBC, and a year working in roles with the the Vancouver Opera.
Recently he was Parpignol in the La Boheme, the Third Jew in Salome, and sang in the Bard on the Beach's UBC Opera Evening.
He was Prince Charming in the opera's school touring production of La Cenenterola. He's working towards his master's degree in opera performance.
"At first, I wasn't sure how I would find working in a Gilbert and Sullivan role," he says, "having performed as more serious characters in classical opera. But I've really come to appreciate and enjoy it, as there are so many layers to play with in the music and text.
"There are a lot of moments when the chorus has a strong presence vocally, taking part in the action. We get to do a lot of comic things on stage, lots of fun. It's very classy, witty and entertaining. I only wish I was in the audience to see us perform."
Like all aspiring musicians, Lee works at other jobs to keep financially afloat, managing a retail store and doing accounting.
But, he says, while other people call music "a hobby," he says music is his life, and laughs that his day jobs are his hobby.
"Day jobs also help you become a better actor, as you keep seeing and handling life situations."
He is also interested in any kind of theatre or movie work, from performance to stage managing and directing.
"The complicated work that goes into making any kind of musical or theatrical production is amazing - very challenging."
His next role is with UBC Opera as the Chevalier in Dialogues of the Carmelites, but until then, he'll be buckling his swashes with the Pirates of Penzance, which plays at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre from Dec. 1 to Dec. 9.