A Violinist on How to Empower Asian Musicians


The recent violence against Asian Americans does not surprise me. I remember very well being scared as a kid in Illinois in the 1980s.

At that time, Japan was seen as a looming country. economical power It invades the United States. in 1982 Vincent Chin, a Chinese-American man was beaten to death by two white men who thought he was Japanese here to steal American jobs. The perpetrators received a $3,000 fine and probation for killing a man who looked like my father. The message was clear: Asian-American lives had little value.

This message dripped into my elementary school, where my classmates cracked eggs in my hair because I wasn’t white and bumped into me nearly every day for five years. Still, I was grateful to be Asian-American. After all, we were model minority.

It legend It was invented to set minority groups against each other, where all Asian Americans are quiet, hardworking, and successful, flavoring racism by giving Asians distorted praise and promising them access to the white American dream. The myth delays the kind of solidarity among minorities that could threaten established racial power structures.

This myth also hides the facts: Currently in New York, almost a quarter Half of the Asian population lives below the poverty line; among Asian immigrants highest poverty rates in the city.

a beneficiary Changes in American immigration policies I’m the daughter of Korean War refugees who put a quota on immigrants of color. My mother witnessed terrible violence throughout her childhood and experienced overwhelming fear and hunger. Although my family’s history is a common history for Korean Americans, it is part of Asian American history that has been largely ignored in this country. But perhaps less well known is what it’s like to be an Asian American woman in classical music.

My parents, who had very few opportunities as a child, provided me with numerous extracurricular activities, one of which was violin lessons. But growing up, I saw very few people like me in music. In 1980, according to Association of American Orchestras, 96.6 percent of orchestra players in the country were white. Then, “Oriental presence in classical music” as a New York Times article said, it was a matter of controversy.

These days, Asians are usually overrepresented minorities. According to the latest data from the League of American Orchestras, 86.8 percent of orchestra musicians are white and 9.1 percent are of Asian descent. 91.7 percent of executives in classical music are white. The percentage of ethnic Asians in these management positions is too small to be included.

To say that Asian Americans are overwhelmingly overrepresented in the current situation is quite misleading. white and male field.

Classical music is often called “universal,” but what does universal mean when the field is built for white men who hold most of the power? I haven’t seen a handful in my nearly 30-year career. ethnic Asians – less Asian American women – promotion to managerial or leadership positions.

Throughout my career, I have witnessed that those of us who are ethnically Asian, born, raised, or educated in the Americas and Europe, are obliged to believe that musicians of Asian descent are hardworking, hardworking, and technically excellent. music has no real substance, no soul, and ultimately no real artists. At the beginning of my career, an influential conductor who had never played me before told me that I would never be a true artist. he is The Chinese did not understand music and therefore the Chinese could never understand classical music.

American historian Grace Wang He uses the term “innate capacity” to describe the belief that different types of music originate from, and therefore belong to, certain groups of people from certain places. The assumption that a musician can be a great performer of a composer simply because he is from the country in which the composer once lived is both implicit and explicit. From this perspective, technique can be learned, but the ability to truly understand the essence of classical music can only be gained through blood and race.

appeared in 2007 Joyce Hatto, a white British pianist, had played other pianists’ records. – including Yuki Matsuzawa, a Japanese woman – and she set them free as her own. Tom Deacon, long considered a classical music watchdog, former record executive, and widely traveled competition judge, had written on a classical music message board about both Hatto’s and Matsuzawa’s recordings, not knowing they were the same.

What Hatto believes to be, Deacon Wrote: “Oh my god, this is a beautiful recording of Chopin’s music. The pieces flow very naturally and completely without any valuable effects.” Hatto added, “he played the octaves so softly that it seemed to flow from his fingers.”

What was tagged, right, as Matsuzawa: “Faceless, clean like a typewriter, a pin, but completely loose performances with small, poetic gestures added like too much blush on the face of a Russian toy.”

Other than the obvious contrast between praising Hatto and hating Matsuzawa for the same performance, what fascinates me is her language. Deacon sums up nearly every stereotype of Asian musicians: Matsuzawa’s performances “faceless” being the “natural flow” of a white woman; The Asian pianist is technically “clean as a pin”, a “typewriter”, organically uncreative and can only replicate the innate capacity of a European.

Classical music continues to keep them alive and other stereotypesincluding continuous use yellow face – white artists painted with yellow makeup and slanting eyes – in opera productions. yellow face normalizes caricatures of asians and Fetishizes Asian women, exoticizing alternate them through clichés submissive and hypersexual.

So how can classical music empower and create space for all members of our community?

Ask Asian Americans to curate programs and create jobs – not just Asian, iconic Lunar New Year concerts, but Unique experiences and contributions as Asian Americans.

Recruit and recruit Asian and Asian American singers, instrumentalists, conductors and composers. break stereotypes and strengthen our individualities and complexities.

He mentors Asian Americans early in their musical careers. Sponsor and encourage Asian Americans in arts direction and administration. hire Asian Americans He took part in the boards of directors of arts organizations.

Also, when you have Asian Americans on your boards, listen to them – empower them to reframe discussions about inclusion and equality, and give them the freedom to make statements about violence against those like them. learn Asian American histories and create ways to interact with all members of your community.

My mentors fought for my inclusion in the classical world. It is now my responsibility to help create a more inclusive space for future generations. I invite musicians and music institutions to create these new spaces with me and my forward-thinking colleagues.


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