The month of May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.
It began in 1979 (as a week-long observance) after a two-year Congressional effort was signed into law by Jimmy Carter. The purpose was to commemorate the history and accomplishments of Asian and Pacific American communities in the US, and the first month-long observance was in 1990. The significance of the month was due to two historic events: May 7th, 1843 was the date that the first Japanese immigrants arrived in the United States, and May 10, 1869 marked the completion of the nation’s transcontinental railroad, built largely by Chinese immigrants.
As part of this celebration, Classical California is presenting a two-hour special broadcast highlighting AAPI classical musicians and composers who have shaped the sound of classical music in America.
The program is Friendship and Harmony: Celebrating Asian and Pacific Americans in Classical Music. Saturday, May 13th from 3 to 5 pm, on Classical California.
Here are some of the artists we are featuring!
Yo-Yo Ma and the Silkroad Ensemble:
Yo-Yo Ma conceived of Silkroad in 1998, recognizing the historical Silk Road as a model for radical cultural collaboration – for the exchange of ideas, tradition, and innovation across borders. And in the year 2000, he brought together musicians from some of the lands of the Silk Road to co-create the Silk Road Ensemble. The sounds that you hear together are a blend of instruments and voices from China, India, Syria, Europe, and beyond. This ensemble is a way to connect with a variety of musical cultures all blending together, creating a “playlist without borders.”
Hailing from the Southeastern Pacific Island of Rapa Nui (commonly known as Easter Island), Mahani Teave managed to forge a career as a classical pianist on an island that had only one piano and one piano teacher. After further study in Chile, the U.S., and Germany, Teave embarked on tours of South America, North America, and Europe. In 2012, she was named a Steinway Artist. The same year, Teave founded the non-profit organization Toki Rapa Nui, creating the first School of Music and the Arts of Easter Island. The school offers both classical and traditional Polynesian lessons in various instruments to over 100 children.
Indian-American composer Reena Esmail works between the worlds of Indian and Western classical music. The soundscape of her music is deeply moving and personal. She studied composition at Juilliard and Yale and Hindustani classical music in India on a Fulbright-Nehru grant. Furthermore, Esmail is the Los Angeles Master Chorale’s 2020-2025 Swan Family Artist in Residence. Her most recent premiere, “Malhaar: A Requiem for Water,” received major critical acclaim just a few months back.
For more music by these artists—and stories about the AAPI community in classical music—tune in Saturday May 13th from 3-5pm on Classical California KUSC.