Friday, May 27, 2022

Celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

I can't believe the month of May is almost over and we're heading into June - the start of summer! May is Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, and I'm glad I was able to attend an Embassy piano concert and reception to mark the occasion while M watched baby S at home. When I went on maternity leave I resigned my leadership position on our IDEA (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accessibility) Council (formerly known as D&I Council), but attending their wonderful events when I can is a way I like to show my support.

In this case, I knew I wanted to go as soon as I saw the email asking for RSVPs. Edwin Kim, an award-winning Korean American pianist with a Doctor of Musical Arts degree at the Peabody Institute of The Johns Hopkins University, performed a special selection of pieces for the intimate gathering. I was hooked from the second sentence of his bio: "Praised by International Piano Magazine for performances infused with “magic in atmosphere, individuality and poise,” his repertoire encompasses timeless masterpieces of the piano literature along with innovative new compositions." He did not disappoint, performing a series of pieces from contemporary takes on Korean folk music to an outstanding rendition of Chopin's L'heroique Polonaise to some of his own original compositions. He could even sing! We were all blown away by his talent.

My mom is a pianist and piano teacher of incredible talent, so I have been to a lot of classical music concerts around the world and few have moved me the way Edwin's music did. He has a sensitive and artistic perspective on things that reminded me of my mom and made me a little homesick. He acknowledged the recent gun violence in the United States, which was on all of our minds, and he commented that the outside world was not nearly as beautiful as the world of music he was fortunate enough to live in every day. He said although he was not in a position of political power he could express feelings about what is happening through music that hopefully reaches people.

I loved being a part of such a special evening with my colleagues and friends. We were encouraged to wear traditional dress from an Asian culture, and I realized I didn't have a hanbok, but I did have a Tangzhuang-style custom-made jacket given to me by a friend and colleague when she retired. So I, a Korean American, ended up wearing a Chinese heritage style given to me by a Filipina American because I couldn't find any Korean clothes in my closet. Part of fashion is taking inspiration from and mixing different cultural influences, so it was fun to represent that - though I still wish I had a modern-style hanbok dress!

If you're lucky enough to be in the area when Edwin Kim is performing, do yourself a favor and buy a ticket. You won't regret it. He has a way of reaching everyone from classical music aficionados to the general public, as the best musicians can. This was a fantastic way to mark Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, and I hope none of us limit our celebration of the history, culture, and contributions of AAPI folks to just one month.

No comments:

Post a Comment