Violinist Jennifer Koh: it’s past time to de-marginalize people of Asian descent in classical music

Posted on: July 22, 2021

Violinist Jennifer Koh. Photo: Jingyu Lin for The New York Times

“I have not been surprised by the recent violence toward Asian Americans. I palpably remember being afraid when I was a child in Illinois, in the 1980s,” writes violinist Jennifer Koh in Tuesday’s (7/21) New York Times. “The message was clear: Asian American lives had little value…. When I was growing up, I saw very few people in music who looked like me…. Classical music is often called ‘universal,’ but what does universality mean when the field was built for white men who still hold much of the power? In my nearly 30-year career, I have seen not even a handful of ethnic Asians—much less Asian American women—ascend to executive or leadership positions…. So how can classical music empower and create space for all members of our community? Ask Asian Americans to curate programs and create work … Hire and commission Asian and Asian American singers, instrumentalists, conductors and composers … Mentor Asian Americans at the beginning of their musical careers. Sponsor and promote Asian Americans in arts management and administration. Recruit Asian Americans onto the boards of arts organizations…. I invite musicians and musical institutions to create these new spaces with me and my forward-thinking colleagues.” Koh is a member of the League of American Orchestras’ board of directors.