A group of diverse musicians play the flute, piano and viola

School of Music students lead effort to celebrate diverse musicians

Last March, there were incidents of gun violence targeting Asian Americans in Atlanta. This raised the nation’s consciousness about the kinds of discrimination that Asian people face in our society.

To commemorate the anniversary of the tragic events, the School of Music will host a free concert, Together: A Celebration of Asian and Pacific Islander Communities. Students will perform works by composers who are either from Asia or are of Asian or Pacific Islander descent.

“It is going to be a moment for the School of Music to come together and reflect about the importance of Asian and Pacific Islander peoples in music-making and in the culture of our school,” says Danny Jenkins, associate professor of music theory and member of the School of Music’s diversity, equity and inclusion committee.

Most performers will be students from the School of Music who are of Asian or Pacific Islander descent.

“The students have volunteered to perform these pieces. They will get their individual parts together, and then we will have a dress rehearsal on Sunday, March 13,” Jenkins says. “That is often how professional gigs happen. You learn your part, and then you come in, you have rehearsal, and then you do the performance. It is a good learning experience for the students.”

Because of his role with the DEI committee, Jenkins became the faculty liaison for this effort, working with two students who had emerged as leaders on this issue in the spring. One of these students is Lucy Ku (Viola, May 2023) who has a personal connection to one of the victims of the Atlanta shooting.

My hope is to send a message of unity from the students and faculty in the School of Music.

Lucy Ku, music student and concert organizer

Ku was involved with this effort from the start. Her music history professor, Kunio Hara, reached out to her following the shooting in Atlanta because he knew she was an Asian American from the Atlanta area.

“What initially started out as reaching out to Tayloe Harding, the School of Music dean, to make a statement during this time supporting the Asian community, evolved into a concert embracing not only Asian American communities but also other underrepresented minority communities,” Ku says.

Hara and Ku realized that there had never been a concert at the School of Music focused on Asian American students or composers. Harding, Hara and other professors in the School of Music helped Ku and other student leaders bring the concert to life. For Ku, this concert is a step in the right direction.

“As students, we hear so much about the dean and what they do, but often times, we never get to meet them,” Ku says. “Being able to work closely with Dean Harding has been really cool and opened my perspective to his administrative role and what we can do. As someone who wants to be in an administrative role for music and implement diverse programs for different symphonies, it shows that concerts like this are possible, it just takes work.”

There are a few key impacts Ku hopes comes from this concert.

“I hope it educates people to think outside of their current perspectives and pop the bubble of classical music, lets School of Music students know that they are not restricted to what is assigned in the classroom, that they can evolve in what they are doing and lastly, enact change and bring something new to Columbia,” she says.

Beyond these, the people who attend the concert are just as important.

“I am excited to see the variety of people who will come out to this, from my friends to people who typically do not attend concerts like this” she says. “My hope is to send a message of unity from the students and faculty in the School of Music.”

The anniversary of the Atlanta shootings is March 16. The Together: A Celebration of Asian and Pacific Islander Communities concert will be held at 7:30 p.m. March 15 in the School of Music recital hall. The concert is free and tickets are not required.

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