NY Times: Here’s how to empower Asian musicians

NY Times: Here’s how to empower Asian musicians


norman lebrecht

July 22, 2021

Having dug itself into one hole yesterday on the ‘invisibility’ of Asian musicians, the paper’s arts section today calls on the violinist Jennifer Koh to call on the classical industry to ‘make space for artists of Asian descent.’

She writes, inter alia: …’It is highly misleading to say that Asian Americans are overrepresented in what remains an overwhelmingly white and male field. 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.

‘I have witnessed throughout my career that those of us who are ethnically Asian but were born, raised or trained in America and Europe, are burdened with the belief that musicians of Asian descent are diligent, hard-working and technically perfect — but cannot understand the true essence of music, have no soul and ultimately cannot be true artists. In the beginning of my career, I was told by an influential conductor — who had never heard me play — that I could never be a true artist because he did not understand Chinese music and therefore Chinese people could never understand classical music.’

Still digging.

Follow the running debate here and here.


  • John Borstlap says:

    ‘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?’

    Wrong: the ‘field’ was not ‘built for white men’.

    It is protesting racist discrimination with racism.

    • Peter San Diego says:

      “By” would have been a more accurate choice of preposition than “for”.

    • Pianofortissimo says:

      Yes, classical music was mostly built by (not for) white men, but it can be pursued and appreciated by all. Classical music is part of European high culture. European arts, science, and technology are outstanding human achievements in a class of their own.

      • John Borstlap says:

        Indeed, they are universal contributions to humanity and accessible to any talent. And they are colourless and have no ethnicity.

        But that dos not mean that they cannot be misused in ethnic strategies.

  • Y says:

    And the New York Times, like good little Communists, continue to sow racial discord in our country. Lovely.

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      Completely. Pravda does this daily, on in NYC.

    • Pithy Paulette says:

      They’re always shilling for shekels!

      Oh, as they push the same ‘social narratives’ it’s quite telling that their own top tier talent remains rather…….WHITE and MALE with some poc’s tossed in the lower rungs yet not too high up their own ivory vine.

    • Stewart says:

      Whether NYT has a point, enough with this sickening “Communist” nonsense. I expect more from Norman’s readers. Every person you don’t like is a Hitler and a misstep by the government is a Holocaust, I suppose?

      • Y says:

        Why don’t you look up Walter Duranty, who denied Stalin’s atrocities in the pages of the New York Times for years? Or better yet, ask the paper’s current editors about their stance on Cuba and its people’s fight for liberty?

        The fact is, the New York Times has been propagandizing for Communism for years. Go educate yourself.

  • So are we are to believe that Pinchas Zukerman’s racial stereotyping came out of the blue, that they are not a sadly common attitude in classical music?

    • John Borstlap says:

      They are personal flaws distinct from the art form. Players who boast ethnic superiority on their art, or use it to talk down on non-European people, don’t understand that art at all.

      There are lots of flaws in the musical world but they are different from the art form itself.

      • “…in classical music” is a figure of speech meaning the people who work in the field. Whether or not attitudes of superiority are engrained in the art itself is an another question. I doubt that it can be facilely brushed aside. But of course, there’s no discussing that here.

        • John Borstlap says:

          Indeed it depends upon how one interprets the term ‘classical music’. I would say it’s meant to refer to the art form, but if it is worded as ‘the classical music world’ the term is clearly including all the people working in the field as well.

          Still, such generalizations of ‘world’ are not much helpful, I think. There may be so many different reasons why we see less of people of such-and-such type. That this has been ignored, up till recently, may have been because of indifference to an existing problem as well as because of many people working in the field simply don’t think ethnically. The former may have been caused, partially, by the latter. It remains very difficult though, to get to know exactly what happens on the ground, and it is impossible to fight one prejudice with another – that is merely fuelling the problem.

  • Gustavo says:

    Hey, let’s start a black list.

  • Alphonse says:

    “I’m a victim! I’m a victim! White man: bad. Everybody else: good.”

    • John Borstlap says:

      How is that advert racist? It can easily be read as a positive joke which undermines Wagner’s racist ideas.

  • V Lind says:

    I really wish people critical of what are perceived, correctly in some instances, to be liberal-leaning institutions — e.g. The NYT, the BBC — would stop calling them “communist” (or in one frequent instance by one poster on this site, Bolshevik).

    It betrays total ignorance of what either liberalism or communism is. It is mere mud-slinging.

    A free society generates and should welcome divergent views as to how to go about being a decent society. It is as if every Tory MP, or Republican or Conservative, were to be deemed “Fascist.” Which, in fairness, some of the more extreme and equally ignorant of the left do too often.

    As someone more left-leaning than right, I am as dismayed as many of a more conservative persuasion at the current imperative labelled “wokeness” and what it has wrought. And equally dismayed when institutions I have grown up respecting, from the BBC and CBC to the NYT and the Guardian, embrace the culture of decolonisation, inclusiveness that seems to depend upon including everyone except white people, the rewriting of history.

    Yes, inclusion is clearly preferable to exclusion, and by all means history should be re-examined — as it always has been. It is how it has developed and progressed. But without protest and in many cases sacrifice, there would be no admission that the world was round, that it revolved around the sun, that there is gravity. Left to the powers that be, unquestioned, we would still be in the Dark Ages.

    I utterly support equal opportunity, irrespective of race, sex, “orientation,” etc. But I was wary of affirmative action from my teens, when it was introduced, on the grounds that I did not want a doctor to operate on me who had been coddled through med school for any reason other than ability, or to walk over a bridge built by an engineer who only got the job because of some identified status and not expertise.

    On the other hand, I devoutly hope that education from the ground up can be offered to all, so that they grow to their OWN potential. Not all people, of any race including “white,” can be engineers or surgeons, or concert pianists, but I want all kids to have the same chances to learn and find their way. I want jobs to be available to people regardless of their identification, but based on their abilities and application and, where possible, preference.

    Because I tend to start from the liberal view, I subscribed to The Spectator for a long time, but I am being driven to give it up because I can no longer stand the BTL comments. People who think Derek Chauvin did no wrong, and who accuse any article writer who is reasonable and balanced of being a “communist.”

    Although I rarely vote Conservative, I think changes of government are good for a society from time to time. They freshen ideas, sharpen up perspectives and as, on the whole, there are very few differences among major parties, the world keeps turning and the sky does not fall.

    Without the Labour party, working conditions for the non-ruling class would still be Dickensian. There would be no NHS. I know little about the inner workings of institutions I have not worked for, but I suspect that the more conservative criticism of the BBC and the NHS and many other organisations with a lot of power are over-manned an inefficiently operated. Yet privatisation has not improved railways, far from it, or many other entities that have been “privatised.” People have to start listening to one another, not hurling meaningless words like fascism and communism around rather than exploring ideas.

    • Hayne says:

      Walter Duranty worked for the NYT didn’t he?:)
      I agree calling communist to someone you don’t like happens a lot. However, it happens on the left on an incredible scale with the term fascist, Hitler, etc.
      You may not have noticed.
      I won’t start with the Labour Party…or the Tories.
      Build Back Better Boris.

    • Sheryl Lowenstien says:

      @V Lind your failure to afford the same basic level of respect and decency to Republicans or Trump voters set the stage for this.

      Pushing leftist narratives and resorting to violence on election night 2016 without Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton calling immediately for PEACE showed what the left is about.

      Dim people who still believe Hillary won and the Russian garbage were fast enough to try to shut down Trump’s 2020 victory while not acknowledging Dominion’s role, voter fraud due to lack of ID as well as other documented issues.

      Now you people have Bipolar Biden who can’t formulate a thought. He just embarrassed himself badly enough with Don Lemon’s town hall that even cnn and the AP fact checkers called out his hideous lies. Meanwhile Harris is maintaining a low profile after the Texas Democrats came to meet her as they abandoned their responsibilities to the State. Now 6 of them tested positive for COVID plus aides for both Biden and Pelosi. MSM across the board called out his lies on employment figures. Yes, it’s that bad already.

      The left is a sad disaster of their own making where classical liberals are staying away. Other Dems are leaving the party too. It’s too toxic and ineffective from within. Too much fixation on Trump and no achievements from Biden-Harris is making more folks want Trump back since this is all the Left talks about.

      • BRUCEB says:

        Well, THAT was convincing.

      • V Lind says:

        Respect to Trump? Are you crazed? I have an IQ of more than a digit and a dollar sign.

        I have plenty respect for Republicans, as I tried to indicate above. At least Republicans as they used to be, before the era of divisive politics. (Which, I readily admit, started long before Trump, but which was largely responsible for elevating him far beyond hos competence).

        But most of your post is so full of distortion that it is not worth answering.

        • Andy Lo says:

          @Sheryl Lowenstien offered cogent points which white liberals like yourself find too honest.

          It is becoming interesting though. The more Democrats divide the US over their critical race nonsense and anti-Americanism where they find both white people and the flag ‘offensive’, the more they must eat their own.

          What are they going to do with Biden, Pelosi, Schumer and the lot of white senators, house members, governors, mayors, etc??? By the ‘college educated’ way of warped leftist thinking, the leaders THEY just elected and those establishment types who represent them by virtue of both their white race and American flag allegiance MUST GO!!!!

          Those dummies just elected a white male with too much money as their president! This point evades them as they hate whites and laughably claim the flag is a “symbol of oppression”. Yes, they’re stupid enough to believe it as they enjoy all of the freedoms of America. They are too daft to simply renounce their citizenships and move to better, more equal lands like say North Korea, Venezuela, Africa, Saudi Arabia where they will be welcomed by a severe culture shock!! They also don’t seem to grasp the communism of China and their requirements of its citizens either. Dolts.

          More respect and openness for the Republican right and Trump supporters is needed for any type of informed appreciation of American tenants and vast freedoms. If one is looking for a ‘better’ country, the left can never name any or where their socialist utopia is successful. They never follow through with their “I’m moving to ____”! either. 2016 proved how stuck in their own narcissism these people are.

          What ever will they do about that oppressive white man lording over them in the White House utilizing his white privilege?

          • John Borstlap says:

            A short word about ‘privilege’:

            Life in any society is NOT an organized, fair bureaucracy where talent, intelligence, character, income, housing, nr of pets, hair- and skin colour is distributed according to some well-designed system of justice. Humanity is not ‘equal’. A minimum of freedom means that life cirumstances and trajectories will be different. This does not mean that anybody who has a better life has only been able to get that BECAUSE of other people’s misery: ‘Your success has been possible thanks to my misery’. It is the fallacy of the null sum, typical of the egalitarian world view, and its attempts to fight injustice simply create another injustice. In a society with a minimum of individual freedom social justice has to be achieved wthout the idea that everybody has to be ‘cut to size’, otherwise it is merely organized envy.

    • Alfred Noonan says:

      “A free society generates and should welcome divergent views as to how to go about being a decent society.” – V Lind

      The problem with your statement is that Leftists don’t value or want a free society today. In the US for instance it is radical socialists and communists who dominate the Democrat agenda. Only antifa and the more salient blm count, no other race exists in their fanciful narratives. They push blacks only and continue to insult their intelligence, character and financial abilities ad nauseam.

      Democrat voters are watching in horror as Biden continues to dictate what they can’t have as opposed to what they debased themselves screeching about. Waving tuition, guaranteed monthly income without working and the like is just not happening.

      It’s even more fascinating that the ‘diversity’ of the 2020 Democrat candidate pool was no match for a wealthy white male in the end. Indeed the left engaged in a ‘systemically racist’ institution putting a White over a black actually Indian hyphenated woman, gay, etc, etc….

      Democrats simply proved their own white privileged history as kkk founders weather they admit it or continue to deflect and deny the obvious. Asians still have no voice in the liberal lexicon by design as native Americans along with so many others have no standing either.

    • Herman says:

      Well ‘V’ Lind (short for vagina perhaps…) there’s always the best and brightest of Harvard to depend on for future ‘leadership’.

      At this rate the left will implode within about 2 years! lol!


  • Scott says:

    She falls back on the white men trope, but it is wrong in this case. Today, the make-up of American orchestras is about 50-50, and the trend is toward more women.

    • fflambeau says:

      Scott, you misread. She’s complaining about the lack of Asians and other minorities in leadership positions in classical music, not their numbers in orchestras.

  • Gerry Feinsteen says:

    What Ms Koh states about her personal experience is truly disappointing. I trust that times have changed and continue to make progress.

    As far as I know many executives of major arts organizations are well over 50, and worked their way to high positions bit by bit. Perhaps they’re just finishing up their employed years like those at law and banking firms. It’s often a matter of time in these cases.

    I do hope the Times considers discussing inclusion within the American hip-hop community sooner than later.

    • John Borstlap says:

      Disappointments in the classical music world are structurally embedded in its character, so complaining about it is nonsensical, they will never go away because every dymanic within that world is subjective, because the art form is subjective.

      If I would draw-up lists of professional disappointments of composers for instance, those of disappointed Asian performers would look like children’s play.

      The classical music world, in spite of its highminded ambitions and immense professional efforts, has been a ‘Wild West area’ since it came into being at the beginning of the 19th century. No other professional field has such a crazy mix of superb talents and blunt nitwits and everything in between as the classical music world.

  • Morgan says:

    Try reading more carefully and you would notice that both articles are dated 21 July; both appeared in the Wednesday edition of the newspaper not a day apart.

  • BRUCEB says:

    I realize lots of people don’t subscribe to the NY Times and thus are unable to read the articles. I do, so I can.

    Even though we all know better than to take NL’s headlines and summaries as gospel — remember when he said the Vienna Philharmonic was two-thirds female, and it turned out he was talking about a Haydn trio made up of orchestra members, two of whom were female? — lots of people still do it.

    Here’s a quote from the article. I know copy/pasting full articles is not allowed; I hope this is short enough to be legal (I’m sure I’ll get spanked if it’s not):

    In 2007, it was revealed that Joyce Hatto, a white British pianist, had stolen recordings of other pianists — including those of Yuki Matsuzawa, a Japanese woman — and released them as her own.* Tom Deacon, long considered a gatekeeper in classical music, a former record executive and a well-traveled competitions judge, had written on a classical music message board about both Hatto’s and Matsuzawa’s recordings, without knowing they were the same.

    Of what he believed to be Hatto, Deacon wrote: “My oh my, this is a beautiful recording of Chopin’s music. The pieces flow so naturally and so completely, without precious effects.” Hatto, he added, played “the octaves so incredibly smoothly that they seem to flow from her fingers”

    Of what was labeled, correctly, as Matsuzawa: “Faceless, typewriter, neat as a pin but utterly flaccid performances with small, tiny poetic gestures added like so much rouge on the face of a Russian doll./i>

    *(Actually, IIRC it was her husband who did this, without her knowledge; the truth came out only after her death. But still, the critic’s assessment is the relevant part here.)

    One of her main pieces of advice — the “how to” part of the article, conveniently neglected in the summary — is:

    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. And, when you have Asian Americans on your boards, listen to them — empower them to reframe discussions about inclusion and equity, and give them the freedom to issue statements about violence against those who look like them.

    I hope Asian Americans need less mentoring now than they did when Ms. Koh was coming up; however, she surely knows more about the situation than I do. The part about including Asian Americans on boards as part of the diversity arts organizations are seeking makes a lot of sense: diversity means more than just white plus black.

  • John Borstlap says:

    Dr Hofstadter from the Texas Institute of Technology is currently in China, leading a research group, to count the number of Chinese people who don’t understand Western classical music. When he has finished the project, he will send a report back to TIT about his findings, but it may take some time since there are more people in China than he had foreseen.

    • John Borstlap says:

      Update: the team lost the laptop with all the material in the floods so they have to start all over again.

      • John Borstlap says:

        Update: the laptop has been found by an elderly Chinese woman who had a look and told the team member that she understood it better than so-called musicologists who needed to count Chinese to come-up with some evidence.

        • John Borstlap says:

          Update: new stumble block for the project, since it appears that not many Chinese people speak English, so the team have to find an interpreter. Dr Hofstadter is desperately trying to find that elderly woman again who addressed him earlier.

          • John Borstlap says:

            Update: she has been found and is prepared to do some explanation on the condition that she can choose the people herself. This caused some friction in the team but protesting members were left behind on the motorway.

          • John Borstlap says:

            Update: after the internal problems of the team were solved, Mrs Cho Pang led the team to a small town in the Longtan district, where – according to Mrs CP – ALL inhabitants had really no idea about Western classical music. But after she had left the team at the entrance gate, and the team began to ring the door bells, they found-out that everybody spoke – in relatively good English – very enthusiastically about Beethoven and Brahms and Stravinsky, so by the end of the day it began to dawn on Dr Hofstadter that they were duped.

  • David says:

    omg Norman did you even read the NY times article? It makes it perfectly clear that there are indeed famous Asian soloists, but they are the minority within the Asian community, and even these superstars can suffer from racism and sexism (Sumi Jo is quoted in this article, as well as Yuja Wang. We’ve witnessed a lot of sexism and racism towards Yuja Wang on slipped disc too of course).

    The article is underlining the fact that most Asians face stereotypes (it only takes one to look at any comment section of youtube video of asian artists to witness this) that negatively impact Asian artists. It furthermore discusses Asian representation in organizations and administration. Therefore, people throwing out names of famous soloists and conductors are TOTALLY missing the point of this article…..Please read and use a little bit of critical analysis.

  • Tim says:

    Ever since the NYT completely sold out to become an extension of the corporate wing of the Democratic party, they are simply incapable of reporting anything truly “adversarial” to power. So, in order to delude themselves and their readers that they still “speak truth to power”, they endlessly seek out to report on critical race theory stories– a viewpoint that doesn’t threaten any real power structures, but does an effective job at dividing and conquering the populace while Bezos types blast off into outer space… meanwhile artists remain poor.

  • Sue Sonata Form says:

    Tell that to the top universities who’ve put quotas on Asian students!! Such hypocrisy.

    There’s a new word for it now: MISERABILISM.

    • Anon says:

      Many top conservatoires do exactly the opposite. Their rosters are often almost entirely Asian students because they’re among the few whose wealthy families can afford to pay full conservatoire tuition, without benefit of scholarships, reduced tuition or student aid.

      Asian students are subsidizing US conservatoires, and many in Europe by because they’re the only ones who can pay full fare.

      • John Borstlap says:

        I have some reliable inside information which fully confirms this. And it puts pressure on the teachers, since often they have to cope with emotional and mental gaps in the students’ outlook because they have focussed primarely on technique and not on culture. For many of the poor youngsters it is quite a shock to discover, on arrival in the Holy Land of Classical Music, that there is a whole world behind the notes they have never been made aware of. This is not the result of ethnicity, but of a one-sided development.

        A red-haired communist is not a communist as a result of his hair colour.

        • John Borstlap says:


          Interestingly, the place that Western classical music appears to occupy in Chinese society mirrors the situation of 19C Europe, when the bourgeoisie became the trendsetting social class: next to real interest, classical music was a symbol of cultural development and modernity. A piano in the house meant that one was ‘in-the-know’ and open to the world of higher civilization.

          The current situation in Europe however, reflects the triumph of the egalitarian society where numbers define everything, so that high art is being pushed to the margins of relevance and gradually skimmed of funding.

        • Ashu says:

          [For many of the poor youngsters it is quite a shock to discover, on arrival in the Holy Land of Classical Music, that there is a whole world behind the notes they have never been made aware of.]

          Even in our relatively global age, this should sound familiar to any non-Indian sanskritist who remembers arriving in India for the first time. Nothing can prepare you.

  • Miggs says:

    There are many professional musicians that do sincerely believe that Asian musicians lack creativity as they are obsessed with perfection, making their parents happy, and never thinking outside of the box. All the protesting and wokeness in the world will never change that.

    Family money allows them to buy the stage and spots at famous conservatories. But do they make listeners cry?

    • Interesting says:

      There are many professional musicians that do sincerely believe that Jewish musicians lack creativity as they are obsessed with perfection, making their parents happy, and never thinking outside of the box. All the protesting and wokeness in the world will never change that.

      Family money allows them to buy the stage and spots at famous conservatories. But do they make listeners cry?

      • John Borstlap says:

        Indeed. Making the connection with ethnicity is ridiculous.

        This was exactly the grave mistake Wagner made when he criticized the exploitation of wild capitalism during the first wave of industrialization in the 19th century, where many figure heads were of Jewish descent (industry, banking). His concerns were justified but the racist connection he made was a constant source of confusion for him, seeing so many ‘Jews’ who agreed with him and so many ‘sane people’ who forcefully rejected the claim, including his patron King Ludwig.

  • Sue Sonata Form says:

    Why don’t they just advocate for and continue bullying the Vienna Philharmonic to take more people of their particular ethnic preference.

    Oh, wait….!!!! The more things change the more they remain the same.

    • John Borstlap says:

      We have to wait until more than half of the Viennese population has become ethnically Chinese, so that the VPO will reflect true and authentic Viennese cultural identity. Because that is their rightful wish.

  • J. Bauer says:

    A.G. Sulzberger has no place telling any race how to act or feel about anyone else. He needs to check his gargantuan white privilege else others will do it for him. Your blog readers know who this white male oppressor is, correct?

    • John Borstlap says:

      The very fact that I’m working for a white male gives me already the feeling of being oppressed. I even get that feeling on my way to the work place, struggling with anger and powerlessness in the bus.


      • John Borstlap says:

        Sorry about this…… she is not allowed to comment on the workplace here, and she has been given a justified reprimand.

  • Anon says:

    Since the NYTimes has made this unexpected proclamation from a US perspective, it merits the occasion to consider US history & the place of immigrants and foreigners in the US historically. There is nothing new under the sun.

    Traditionally, every new group of new immigrants to the US has suffered discrimination, felt undervalued, and struggled to achieve what others have. As each new group starts to assimilate, another group arrives and becomes the target.

    Italians were “wops”, the Irish were “micks”, Germans “krauts”, Jews “kikes”, and much more. Each of these groups fought discrimination and prejudice as they tried to integrate into US society. They were treated terribly. And each these groups, like Asians, had their place in US classical music. They were big name conductors, key members in top US orchestras.

    Did we ever see Toscanini whining about Italian Americans being “invisible” in US orchestras? Did William Kincaid complain about being undervalued as a “Mick” in the Philadelphia Orchestra? Did Paul Hindemith ever once mention that German Americans suffered a lack of recognition in the world of composition and conducting?

    Historically, every single ethnic group newly arrived to the US has fought to be recognized and has struggled for legitimacy in the US classical music world.

    Yet, the NYTimes has chosen to highlight only the most recent: Asians, completely oblivious – in the glaring millennial mindset of the journalist – to the fact that this is an issue which has spanned generations and has included many other ethnic groups previously.

  • FrauGeigerin says:

    Classical music is deeply rooted in the European cultures, society, religion, and history. This doesn’t mean that it cannot be practiced with excellence by anyone from anywhere, the same way I can learn and excel in an art form rooted in an Asian culture such as Kabuki… and it indeed is. So, nobody is better than anybody in classical music just because they are from one or another place, as long as they understand the art form, its origin, history, and context (and that is something that is properly taught in any good conservatoire these days).

    And there are musicians from all countries and races with successful careers. I am always very suspicious of people claiming general discrimination in music against a particular group, and calling for empowering or positive discrimination measures. It always makes me think that, in seeking public attention or/and a career, they are trying to compensate their lack of of talent, effort or commitment with making a public fuss in the media about some injustice commited against him or her for being of a particular group (woman, black, Asian…).

    • Anon says:

      Hello, my dear Frau. I do tend to agree with you, but I’d just like to correct your Eurocentric reference to classical music. Times are changing!

      It is often excruciatingly difficult to listen to Europeans try to play jazz, or orchestrally, Gershwin or Copland or Bernstein. It’s awkward because Europeans have the technique but often lack any stylistic understanding.

      I’ve sat in the middle of European orchestras trying to play Gershwin and it mystifies me, because the notes are on the page. But they just don’t get it. It sounds stilted, careful.

      I just wanted to correct you on that. Not all classical music is deeply rooted in European culture. Europeans no longer have a monopoly on that claim, I’m afraid.

      Your old friend,


      • Pianofortissimo says:

        ‘Eurojazz’ has produced much better results than American jazz. Check Friedrich Gulda’s ‘Eurojazz Orchestra’ in the 60’s and early 70’s, the ‘London Jazz Composers Orchestra’, and the ‘Italian Instabile Orchestra’, just to name a few groups.

        • Anon says:

          Yeah, that’s a matter of opinion. Opinions aside, jazz originated in the US, not Europe. I’m not going to stand aside and let Europeans claim stylistic superiority over the US in this genre just because some of their groups play it well.

          US musicians play European classical music – many of them better than Europeans themselves – always mindful and usually in deference to its European origins. Europeans need a little more of that deference with music which is not European in origin. Some humility is in order.

          Jeez. Do you seriously think Europe is the boss of all music in the universe?

      • Franz1975 says:

        I don’t agree. Easily >90% of the orchestral repertoire performed by orchestras anywhere is by European composers. How is it not an European art?

        By the way, I listened to the NY Phil playing Mozart, and it is awkward because USAmericans have the technique but often lack any stylistic understanding.

        Like it or not, classical music is European, the same way Kabuki is Japanese, rodeo American, mariachi Mexican… And as Geigerin says, it can be practiced with excellence by anyone.

        • Anon says:

          And that rapidly increasing 10% that is NOT rooted in European culture? What about that?

          You misread my post. I never said classical music isn’t a European art form, I said: “Not all classical music is deeply rooted in European culture”. BIG difference.

          So you yourself give non-European classical orchestral repertoire a nod at acknowledging it at 10% of the total. That’s exactly my point.

          Bernstein, Copland and Gershwin are staples in standard orchestral repertoire. Can you imagine an orchestra anywhere which doesn’t play John Williams these days? We might also include Barber (how is his “Adagio” played by orchs worldwide rooted in European culture?), John Adams, Phillip Glass (wasn’t his Akhnaten broadcast around the world? Premiered in Stuttgart, BTW), Ives, Hansen, Gould & legions more. How are these US composers “European art”?

          Yes, the tradition of orchestral music is European, but the composers propelling it forward into future generations are very definitely NOT European. And from many other non-European places besides the US.

          How could Toru Takemitsu or Tan Dun or Bright Sheng or the fine Israeli composer Avner Dorman even remotely be considered as having “European roots”.

          You’re behind the times, Franz. Classical music is changing. Europe doesn’t own it anymore.

          • John Borstlap says:

            “Yes, the tradition of orchestral music is European, but the composers propelling it forward into future generations are very definitely NOT European. And from many other non-European places besides the US.” propelling it forward? This is ‘progressive thinking’ as if it gets better with every step towards an utopian future.

      • John Borstlap says:

        You forget that European culture can easily be exported all over the planet, and it has. So, classical music is STILL deeply rooted in European culture and history.

        • Anon says:

          Debussy was heavily influenced by Javanese gamelan music. Following your logic, European classical music is rooted in Indonesian culture.

          • John Borstlap says:

            The typical trait of European art is that it has always absorbed influences ‘from outside’ and made it its own. Debussy absorbed non-european elements to turn them into something distinctly European. That was possible because under the surface of any culture, sensitivities are universal and biologically embedded in the human species.

    • John Borstlap says:

      I think all of this is true.

    • Pianofortissimo says:

      ‘Positive discrimination’ is only discrimination.

  • Outraged says:

    I, for one, am completely insulted by Ms. Koh’s demand for “empowerment” of Asian musicians. She is Asian privilege at its pinnacle: a successful soloist whining about how she’s been mistreated. Mistreated all the way to the bank.

    How is her situation unique? There are throngs of classical musicians from diverse cultures who’ve suffered exclusion, mistreatment, felt invisible. Look at the great composers who fled Nazi Germany and the horrible persecution they endured.

    My own grandmother, an Eastern European immigrant, fled extreme poverty in her country only to face blinding discrimination in the US. She took her own life and left my mother an orphan to fend for herself during the Great Depression. And somehow I went on to become a successful classical musician.

    We’ve all endured extraordinary hardships. I deeply resent Ms. Koh’s implication that she, as an Asian American, suffered more hardships than anyone else on her path to success.

    For all we know, her classmates putting egg in her hair had nothing to do with being Asian and more to do with the fact that she was then, as she is now, an annoying and presumptuous person.

    Jennifer Koh is an affluent, privileged and very righteous woman. She has no business whatsoever telling us who should or should not be empowered in classical music.

    • John Borstlap says:


    • YES!!! says:

      Neither this woman nor other POCs are ‘struggling’ in the slightest as other’s before them. She’s no where near being poor or downtrodden.

      All these narratives are engineered for is to invoke pseudo-outrage and garner egotistical attention from Democrat simpletons.

      You people think you’re ‘oppressed’ who keep whining??? Go put a burka on permanently and live in Afghanistan now that Biden pulled US troops out! You Lefties would be BEGGING to return to the America the beautiful in 2 seconds flat! You could try Cuba too. Lefties are indoctrinated and don’t even ask those who’ve LIVED what they are sold on as being so progressive. Why do you people think Cubans are so pro-America?!?!

  • Couperin says:

    Chopin competition streaming on YouTube now .. plenty of Asians. Tons, in fact. Some real real good ones too!

  • David K. Nelson says:

    The initial S.D. article on the original NYTimes article had vague blatherings about feelings and notions, but here we have Jennifer Koh, a really fine violinist, and an imaginative and important artist (I am thinking specifically of her Cedille Records CD with solo chaconnes by Bach, Barth and Reger) with hard-edged specifics about things she herself has experienced, damaging things, things said and not just suspected. I take this more seriously than the original article and suggest others do so as well.

  • Lord Bus Stop says:

    Jennifer Koh’s essay totally hits the nail on the head. The time to have everybody at the table is now. Otherwise our future will be “Beethoven in Blue Jeans” and movie soundtrack claptrap.