The worlds of art and sports are not all that different – each conjures emotion, depicts internal conflict and forges lasting memories. SMU Snapshots caught up with Marissa Yeo, aka the national canoe polo player by day and disk jockey (DJ) by night, to find out how they complement each other.
When Marissa picked up DJing at 16, it was a great outlet for self-expression but her family just wasn’t as excited about her newfound passion. Music became a side hobby while she focused on developing her athletic side with canoe polo and joined the national canoe polo team at 20. It was only in SMU that the opportunity to jump back into DJing came up. She went all in; juggling national canoe polo trainings six times a week, with DJ practices, Stereometa marketing director – and now, presidential – duties, and the occasional gigs outside of school. Marissa shares the values she’s learned from both art and sports, and how they sometimes intersect.
Be open to new things
“The reality in the scene today is that there are so many different clubs that demand different genres. So genre versatility and being open to other types of music is important.”
Marissa stresses that being able to play a wide range of music becomes increasingly necessary as the world becomes more connected. Listeners have a wider music palette than before, and DJs have to be sensitive to what the audience wants. The willingness to explore new genres helps DJs to become more comfortable with playing a wider range of music, which in turn, helps to land more gigs.
Every experience also teaches something new if you are open-minded and have the humility to recognise it. Marissa draws this back to her experience as an athlete: “You could be on the national team, but you might not be the best with so many out there who have different strengths. So we have to be aware that we are on a constant learning journey and keep challenging ourselves to be better.”
She adds that besides improving your craft, being humble and open to learning also improves character as a person, and makes you stand out whether playing a sport or performing music. People will also enjoy your company and be more inclined to share their experiences, which will enrich your journey.
When Marissa started to dabble in DJing at 16, she was listening to alternative and indie music for leisure, and naturally started spinning with music that felt most comfortable for her – top 40 hit songs. She explains that her style has since evolved, from top 40s to her favourite “Melbourne bounce”, to now experimenting with a wide range of genres as she tries to widen her repertoire.
Although her style is constantly evolving, which is her intention, one thing that DJing has really instilled in her is to stay true to what she believes in as an artist and to follow the music that moves her.
“You have to know your roots, where you’re from, and how you started. If you stay true to yourself, your fans and people who listen to your music will really know who you are, because that is your identity as an artist. It helps you to stay grounded, especially in an industry that is always changing.”
Marissa also credits her athlete training for teaching values that have supported her journey as an artist. The rigours and discipline have taught her to persist when times get tough and keep moving forward during challenging situations.
“The biggest hurdle for me as a DJ was stepping out of my comfort zone of playing Electronic Dance Music (EDM) and pop music. It was scary because it meant playing genres that I was not comfortable with at all.”
She goes on to animatedly describe the times that she’s played music unfamiliar to her for an audience, and how those times tend to leave her feeling self-conscious about her inexperience. But her years of being thrown into daunting situations as a competitive athlete have toughened her up and given her the courage to take risks and step outside her comfort zone.
Creative problem solving
We ask Marissa if there are times where her DJ skills have paid off in canoe polo, and she immediately lights up. “I create my own workout mixes!” and points out, “DJing as an art form has taught me how to be creative; it has helped me to think of new ways to solve problems even in my canoe polo competitions.”
The first thought that comes to her mind is a time when the national canoe polo team was piling on circuit training for an upcoming competition.
“We had to do exercises every thirty seconds with ten second breaks in between. It was so silent when we trained. So I thought, ‘there has to be a way to make this fun.’ I was also the timekeeper with the stopwatch, which made it even more tiring because I had to talk, too.”
Marissa decided to use music to time the circuits. She cut out 30-second choruses and slotted in breaks of ten seconds. A chorus change indicated the start of a new circuit. Each song was tied to a workout, which created anticipation and excitement. The verdict? Her teammates loved it.
“My experiences have shaped me into the person I am today, and I am grateful for everything that has happened to me.”
Marissa shares her thoughts on the choices she’s made in life, and is determined to continue pursuing what she loves. Her hope is to keep playing canoe polo professionally, and for Stereometa, to build the team up internally with the goal of earning a solid reputation – one that justifies the team’s dedication, hard work and the amount of innovation that goes into the club.