KU Asian Classical Music Initiative (ACMI) is designed to bring awareness to the world of AAAPI (Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander) classical music composers through concerts and conferences. KU ACMI is devoted to the promotion and presentation of AAAPI classical music, as well as serving as a forum for the advancement, dissemination, and interchange of AAAPI music from around the world.
U.S. racial politics are often bifurcated in black and white. As a result, other races fall through the cracks. Diversification efforts define Underrepresented Minority (URM) as a U.S. citizen who identifies as Black/African American, Hispanic/Latino, or American Indian. In this case, Asian and Asian-American individuals are left out. Asians are sometimes labeled as “model minorities” and there exists a belief that Asians are privileged just like the white race. In other cases, Asians are represented as an unknown “peril.” The field of music, especially classical music, displays this complexity of U.S. racial politics. The field also magnifies often invisible racial inequalities in society. The history continues to date. The 1967 Time magazine article, entitled, “The Invasion from the East,” caricatured successful Asian musicians as a threat to the western sophisticated music field, stating, “Ironically, as the number of Oriental string players rises, the decline in America is becoming more acute.” More than a half-century later, the 2021 NY Times article, “Asians Are Represented in Classical Music. But Are They Seen?,” reported that Asians are invisible in classical music, including opera, composition, and the majority of leading cultural institutions. How have Asians, once viewed as a threat, become so invisible and absent in the cultural institutions of today? There seems to be a glass ceiling behind the scenes and in transition from music education to professional careers. Every 1 out of 5 undergraduates, and 1 of 3 Ph.D. students, at elite institutions such as the Juilliard School are Asian. Nonetheless, even these few students struggle making a transition to the profession and face a narrow definition of success in the field.
In response to these nuanced racial politics in conversation with the classical music field, a handful of University of Kansas (KU) graduate students in music have recently established the first-ever student-driven Asian Classical Music Initiative (ACMI) in the United States with hopes for racial justice and celebration of diversity. ACMI will feature musicians of different races and nationalities from every corner of the world, especially promoting music composed by Asian, Asian-American, and Pacific Islander composers and celebrating cultural traditions of all parts of Eurasia.