Arts Blog

AANHPI Composers We’re Celebrating On Air

In honor of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, and all year round, All Classical Portland is programming music by Asian American and Native Hawaiian / Pacific Islander (AANHPI) composers and musicians on our playlist. We love sharing music richly and meaningfully woven with a diverse array of influences.

Keep reading to learn about five phenomenal artists we’re featuring on air, and be sure to tune in to All Classical Portland on Saturday, May 27, 2023, at 7:00 PM PT for a special edition of The Concert Hall with John Pitman featuring music by composers of Asian ancestry, from India to the Philippines, to China, Korea, Japan, and Taiwan.

Tan Dun (b. 1957)

Tan Dun
Image by Nana Watanabe courtesy of Bard College

Composer and conductor Tan Dun spent his early life working as a rice planter and performer of Peking opera during China’s Cultural Revolution. He encountered Western classical music for the first time while studying at Beijing’s Central Conservatory and soon became a leading composer of contemporary music in China. Since moving to the U.S. in 1986, Tan Dun has significantly impacted the musical scene nationally and abroad. His oeuvre of opera, chamber works, and orchestral compositions have broken down barriers between classical music and multimedia performance while beautifully incorporating Eastern and Western traditions. His score for Ang Lee’s film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon won the composer both a Grammy and an Oscar. In 2018, Tan Dun was appointed dean of the Bard College Conservatory of Music.

Marika Takeuchi (b. 1987)

Marika Takeuchi
Image courtesy of the composer’s website

A native of Japan, Marika Takeuchi has been actively working on projects in the States as a composer, pianist, orchestrator, arranger, and educator for the past decade. Since moving to the U.S. in 2009 to study at Berklee College of Music, Takeuchi has produced an impressive number of albums and commissions. Much of her music has been scooped up for use in commercials, short films, and advertisements around the world. Fun fact – Takeuchi has a special connection to broadcasting. One of her earliest career experiences was composing for NHK Radio.

Zhou Long (b. 1953)

Zhou Long
Image courtesy of UMKC

Zhou Long is a Chinese American composer whose music combines Chinese folk songs and modernist classical influences. His unique blend of East and West has made him a pioneer in translating traditional Chinese idiomatic sounds and techniques to Western ears. In addition to numerous prestigious accolades, Dr. Zhou was awarded the 2011 Pulitzer Price in Music for his first opera, Madame White Snake. He also received the 2012-2013 Elise Stoeger Prize from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. The composer currently serves as Bonfils Distinguished Professor of Composition at UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance. Dr. Zhou’s wife, Chen Yi, is a composer and violinist whose music also graces our airwaves.   

Reena Esmail (b. 1983)

Image courtesy of the composer’s website

Indian American composer Reena Esmail blends the worlds of Indian and Western classical soundscapes in her music. She has written diverse orchestra, chamber, and choral works for several acclaimed ensembles, including the Los Angeles Master Chorale, Seattle Symphony, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, and Kronos Quartet. Her works address humanity in art and create a sense of belonging and inclusivity among its listeners. In addition to writing emotionally rich compositions, Esmail is the Los Angeles Master Chorale’s 2020-2025 Swan Family Artist in Residence. She also serves as Artistic Director of Shastra, a non-profit organization that promotes cross-cultural music connecting the music traditions of India and the West.

Wei-Chieh Lin (b. 1982)

Image courtesy of the composer’s SoundCloud

Born in Taiwan, Wei-Chieh Lin is an American composer who received formal musical training at The Julliard School under Milton Babbitt. His music has been performed around the world in such establishments as Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, Centre Pompidou, and the National Concert Halls in Taiwan. Wei-Chieh frequently draws on his Taiwanese heritage through folksongs, traditional melodies, and other media, in addition to popular genres and jazz. The composer’s award-winning catalog ranges from works for solo instruments to works for orchestra and chamber ensembles.

Queen Lili'uokalani

To continue learning, check out Emma Riggle’s past post for the Arts Blog, “The Songs of Lili’uokalani, Queen of Hawaii.” This post explores the musical life of the last monarch of the Hawaiian Kingdom.

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