In Chicago, Asian women executives reflect on leadership in classical music and the arts

Posted on: June 25, 2021

CAPTION: From left: Julie Nakagawa (DanceWorks), Julie Tiao Ma (Chinese Fine Arts Society), Amy Iwano (UChicago Presents), Mei-Ann Chen (Chicago Sinfonietta), and Jennie Oh Brown (Picosa and 2021 Ear Taxi Festival). Photo: Terrence Antonio James/Chicago Tribune

“Last year, University of Chicago Presents executive director Amy Iwano made an all-too-familiar phone call: hashing out the COVID-instigated cancellation of yet another live concert,” writes Hannah Edgar in Thursday’s (6/24) Chicago Tribune. “Jennifer Koh, violinist and uncompromising advocate for underrepresented musicians, had been slated to give a concert on campus that November…. Koh voiced frustrations about the dearth of Asian executives in classical music—so few, in fact, that a 2016 report spearheaded by the League of American Orchestras” included Asian American and Pacific Islander CEO data among other Black, Indigenous, and People of Color groups. “(The same report placed AAPI music directors at 7% and staff members at about 3% of reporting orchestras.) … But Iwano could call to mind nearly half a dozen colleagues in Chicago alone: Picosa and Ear Taxi Festival 2021 executive/artistic director Jennie Oh Brown; Chicago Sinfonietta music director Mei-Ann Chen; People’s Music School president and artistic director Jennifer Kim-Matsuzawa; Fifth House Ensemble founder and newly named American Composers Orchestra CEO Melissa Ngan; and herself. That list grows outside classical music spheres…. On May 29, seven of these leaders [and Jennifer Koh] … met with the Chicago Tribune to talk about their paths to leadership, the past year, and Asian representation in the arts.”