Why Do Asians Play Instruments?
by Emily Chao
Think about the stereotypical Asian kid. They either play piano, violin, or both instruments. If not, then the clarinet or the flute. In fact, take a glance at any high school orchestra or band, and chances are more than 50% of the people in it are Asian. Why do Asians, whose ancestral instruments consist of hand plucked stringed instruments or wooden flutes, tend to play the classical instruments of the western world?
For some, imperialism comes to mind. In the Age of Imperialism, western countries dominated the weaker Asian countries, replacing their cultures with those of the western world. However, I feel this is an invalid argument. In Asian countries, kids still play instruments native to their heritage and the number of kids playing classical instruments to the number of kids playing ancestral instruments is roughly the same. So we can assume the stereotype applies mostly to Asian American kids.
Why do Asian American kids play musical instruments? The answer lies in Asian parents. Asian parents are very persistent in their children's education. Many parents' mindsets are "The more my child learns, the better they will be." In fact, a successful Yamaha piano ad campaign in Taiwan contains the following slogan- " Kids that play instruments don't turn bad." Even if the translation is crude, the message gets across. Good kids play instruments.
So, if Asian parents want their kids to play an instrument, which one do they choose? With modern times come modern instruments, which introduce such instruments as the piano, violin, cello, flute, clarinet and on and on and on. In classical music, the piano is regarded as the king of instruments and the violin the queen. Thus, parents think, "Obviously, if they are the king and queen, they must be the best," and since parents always want the best for their children, they get their children to play the piano and violin. And if they can play both, even better! Their kids will be twice as smart.
I don't really want to generalize. If some Asian kids play violin and piano because they wanted to, well then, that's them. But the majority of Asian kids play because their parents wanted them to. I always thought there was a conspiracy between all those Asian parents. Maybe we should all rebel and play the flugelhorn.
"Why do Asians, whose ancestral instruments consist of hand plucked stringed instruments or wooden flutes, tend to play the classical instruments of the western world?"