By Nina Huang
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, and the Seattle Symphony Orchestra commemorates the Asian cultures with its own event, Celebrate Asia.
This year is the ninth year that the Seattle Symphony is hosting the event that will take place on May 12. The first half of the program is dedicated to film music by well-known Japanese composers and the second half will include a special appearance by award-winning Indian composer A.R. Rahman.
Elena Dubinets, Seattle Symphony’s Vice President of Artistic Planning, has worked there for 15 years.
Major donors and former Seattle Symphony Orchestra board members Yoshi and Naomi Minegishi proposed the idea of creating a concert that not only celebrates a single Asian community, but embraces multiple Asian communities in Seattle, Dubinets explained.
“We decided to go for it, but it wasn’t easy because it wasn’t part of our regular offerings or subscriptions. We had to build a population for this special concert, but now we sell out every year,” Dubinets said.
Every year, a special committee consisting of community members from various Asian groups get together to discuss topics and recommend themes for the concert. This year’s recommendation was to feature different communities on the main stage, as well as feature a more extensive Indian representation. The group also wanted to represent Japanese music a little more as they have never dedicated half the program to Japanese music before.
Dubinets expressed excitement about working with the show’s host, Aleksa Manila, who hails from the Philippines and is an important advocate for gay rights in Seattle’s LGBTQ community.
“We wanted to be inclusive of the entire representation of our area and to add diversity in every possible angle,” Dubinets said.
The show will include several world premieres including Rahman’s “Flying Lotus.” Though Rahman will be attending as a composer, attendees will still be able to experience his compositions. The piece is his first-ever symphonic work that is not related to a film’s soundtrack.
In addition, Dubinets said this year they would feature Central Asian dance specialists from Tajikistan, as well as a dance demonstration from a Taiwanese artist.
There is also the annual composition competition, where composers under 35 submit a piece related to Asia. Composers do not have to be of Asian descent. This year’s winner is Indiana University student Christopher LaRosa. He created a piece based on Japanese mythology called “The Tide Jewels.”
Guests can expect the annual lion dance that leads the audience members into the auditorium, which is always a fun event. After the main concert event, the annual taiku drumming display will take place as people exit the auditorium.
For extra excitement, they are also planning a festive Bollywood dancing party in the lobby for those who would like to dance the night away.
The planning committee for Celebrate Asia is already preparing for a major 10th anniversary event next year. There will be a partnership with the Seattle Chinese Orchestra, where there will also be kids from their training program performing. They will be singing and dancing to Chinese folk tunes with Indian elements. The Seattle Chinese Orchestra were featured in the first Celebrate Asia event almost 10 years ago.
Celebrate Asia is presented as part of the Seattle Symphony’s New Music WORKS initiative, which is supported in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. New Music WORKS features commissions, concerts, and educational activities that use composition as a catalyst for collaboration and engagement in music.
The pre-show begins at 5:30 p.m., main performance at 7 p.m. and post-show activities at 9 p.m. Tickets for Celebrate Asia start at $40.
Nina Huang can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.