Peabody Johns Hopkins University Magazine

Collaborative Celebration

Collaborative Celebration

Inter-Asian Cultural Expo showcases broad range of music and performing art

Inter-Asian Cultural Expo

The second-annual free Inter-Asian Cultural Expo takes place April 1 and 2 on the Johns Hopkins Homewood campus, featuring a wide range of current students and recent alumni of both the Peabody Institute and Johns Hopkins, as well as collaborators from MICA and the local community. Created and curated by Ryo Hasegawa (MM ’22, Conducting), a first-year DMA candidate in orchestral conducting, the festival brings together a broad spectrum of fine and performing arts from the wide range of Asian communities and cultures represented at Hopkins and in greater Baltimore.

Hasegawa says that as a graduate student he noticed that Asian students, across both Homewood and Peabody campuses, are one of the university’s largest student populations, but lacked organized “cultural events that celebrate Asian music, arts, and culture,” he says. “At the same time, I felt the need to make a bridge between Peabody and Homewood and other schools, as well as the Baltimore community, to create a platform for students to collaborate and share and celebrate their Asian cultures.” 

Last year’s inaugural JHU East Asia Cultural Expo was a one-day event featuring artworks and projects from Hopkins, Peabody, and MICA students and alumni of East Asian cultural backgrounds followed by Hasegawa leading an orchestra of Peabody and Homewood musicians performing the “Butterfly Lovers” Violin Concerto, a famous work of Chinese classical music, pieces from beloved Studio Ghibli movies, and more. This year, Hasegawa wanted to take an  even wider reach.

Homewood’s “Inter-Asian Council and several other cultural organizations from Homewood and Peabody helped us tremendously last year,” Hasegawa says. “For this year we decided to focus on inclusion of the wider Asian community. And I think what makes this event unique is the collaboration—we’re working together not just to feature one country or culture but celebrate these collaborative experiences through culture.” 

A student of Marin Alsop, director of the Graduate Conducting Program, Hasegawa has taken her collaborative ethos to heart. “Our teacher is all about collaboration and she advocates for collaboration in our industry,” he says. “And Peabody is the perfect place to explore those possibilities. I’ve done many collaborations with Peabody composers, as well as Music for New Media majors whenever they need a conductor for their recitals or capstone. I get to be a part of something new and I learn from that.”

Headshot of Ryo Hasegawa

This weekend’s two-day event features a varied assortment of collaborations across campuses and cultures. Graduate student Heather Hyoeun Ahn (MM ’22, Composition) and undergraduate composer Heng Lin each have collaborative performances with Peabody Dance BFA students. A 4 pm film screening on April 1 features works by five teams of student filmmakers scored by Peabody student composers for this event. And once again the festival concludes with Hasegawa leading an IACE Orchestra and Choir composed of Homewood and Peabody students, this time through the US premiere of composer and DMA candidate Jonathan Shin’s The Night Bazaar, Chi-Yi Lee’s The Golden Age Flute Concerto, Reya Wahab’s arrangement of Oum Thadda, and Taste of India: A Bollywood Medley, a roughly 10-minute orchestral collage of Bollywood movie music arranged by Ashna Pathan (BM ’22, Music for New Media).

“That arrangement is so much fun,” Hasegawa says of Pathan’s medley, before adding that Peabody student Lily Xie is the soloist for The Golden Age Flute Concerto, “which was written by a Taiwanese composer and includes some of the famous tunes sung by this popstar from Taiwan, Teresa Teng, who was very influential to my parents’ generation in Japan and across the Asian countries.”

Hasegawa was born and raised in Tokyo, and while he played piano growing up he also competed for a number of years in Japan’s amateur motorcycle circuit. A year abroad in Nebraska focused his interests on music as a career, earning a music degree from Rollins College in 2019. Studying as an international student in America also ignited his interests in cultural exchange, and he started his nonprofit Mudita organization in Japan to foster such activities in his home country.

The Inter-Asian Cultural Expo, especially its more inclusive programming this year, grew from a similar impulse. Other performers include the Hopkins Oriental Music Ensemble, Peabody DMA candidate Ramilya Saubanova showcasing the music from the Republic of Tatarstan, Alexis Li playing solo guzheng (a plucked zither), Yuehan Liu playing solo guqin, an a cappella performance by Notes of Ranvier, dance performances by Lan Yun Blue Orchides (Hopkins Classical Chinese dance team), the Yong Han Lion Dance Troupe, and the Filipino Student Association, and guest speakers Dany Chan and Ani Proser, the Walters Art Museum’s Associate Curator of Asian Art and Curator of Asian Art, respectively.

“As an international student I have always been interested in exchanging cultures,” he says, adding that during his year in Nebraska he was surprised to encounter people’s limited awareness of art from his home country. “I was interested in advocating for my culture and sharing what I know about my culture. At the same time, I was observing cultures in the US, and the idea that a cultural exchange through music and art began to grow out of that.”