Are you heartsick because our Asian-American neighbors have become the victims of hate? Or if you are an Asian-American member of our communities, do you feel hatred directed against you?
And do you believe that music – our beloved classical music – can be the best tool to heal those divisions?
If you are in agreement with that belief, we would like to offer you several ways to express your support. The first is called Heritage & Harmony. And we would like to start today’s post by telling you about it.
What Is Heritage & Harmony?
Heritage & Harmony is a series of online videos, conceived by pianist Donna Weng Friedman, in collaboration with New York classical radio station WQXR. It features performances and conversations with leading Asian-heritage musicians. You will want to visit Heritage & Harmony to watch the videos there.
Participating artists include . . .
- Pianist Donna Weng Friedman
- Flutist Yoobin Son
- Violinist Stefan Jackiw and pianist Conrad Tao
- Cellist Soo Bae
- Harpist Mariko Anraku
- Violinist Miranda Cuckson and pianist Anthony Cheung
- Soprano Yunah Lee
- Pianist Jon Kimura Parker
- Vocalist DeAnna Choi and Pianist Christopher Tin
The Story of Heritage & Harmony
Heritage & Harmony was created by Donna Weng Friedman, a classical pianist who both concertizes and serves as a beloved piano teacher at the Mannes College of Music in New York.
Last March, while she was walking her dog in Central Park one afternoon, Ms. Weng Friedman was verbally assaulted by a large burly man who barreled toward her, shouting anti-Asian slurs. He told her to get out of the country, or face what she “deserved.”
Thankfully, other people were in the area, and the assailant fled. But he had done damage.
“I was so shaken up by that encounter, I did not leave my apartment for six months,” she explains. To make her situation even worse, she and the members of her immediate family had contracted Covid-19.
“During those months I spent a lot of time listening to music and thinking about my Chinese immigrant parents, and what they went through to give me a life filled with opportunity,” she recalls. “They came to this country with nothing but their hopes and dreams.”
In this video, she lovingly recalls their story.
“By revisiting my parents’ stories,” Ms. Weng Friedman says, “I began to better understand who I was, and where I came from.”
Meanwhile, the number of hate crimes against Asian-Americans continued to skyrocket across our country. All of Ms. Weng Friedman’s in-person concerts had been cancelled. “I felt the need to do something in my own small way,” she explains. “I decided to create a virtual program to shine a light on the stories and music of leading classical musicians of Asian descent.
“I believe in the unifying power of stories and music, so in collaboration with WQXR FM radio, I produced Heritage & Harmony. This virtual concert series is both a recognition of the tremendous contributions to the musical canon by classical musicians of Asian descent, and a reminder of the need to stand together against mindless intolerance.”
Today, There Are Hopeful Signs
We are writing this post only days after the U.S. Senate, with a wide bipartisan majority, passed a bill denouncing discrimination against Asian communities in the United States. That bill now is on its way to the House before it will be signed into law by President Biden.
Yet we also know that one year into the pandemic, anti-Asian Americans sentiment has become worse than ever before.
A Second Way to Support the Cause
“My parents would have been devastated by all this senseless hate and anger towards Asian-Americans,” Ms. Weng Friedman says. “ I can hear my parents’ voices urging me to support my community, so on May 1st, I will be releasing my first pandemic EP – recordings of four pieces of classical music, written by AAPI/BIPOC composers, and performed by AAPI musicians. It is called Heritage and Harmony: SIlver Linings and will be available on Spotify, Amazon, Tidal, and YouTube. This new release features performances by Donna Weng Friedman, piano, and Indira Mahajan, soprano, of works by Florence B. Price, Margaret Bonds, Beata Moon and Chinary Ung. These four pieces helped get me through the pandemic year, which started with the verbal assault, and ended with my entire family getting sick with COVID -19.”
All proceeds will be donated to KACF (Korean American Community Foundation), an organization that supports the AAPI community through philanthropy and education.
“KAFC is committed to fighting for diversity, equity and inclusion and will not tolerate racism on any level,” says Donna Weng Friedman.
All of us at Classical Archives encourage you to download and listen to Heritage and Harmony: SIlver Linings and support this critical initiative.