Violinist Pinchas Zukerman has apologized for invoking stereotypes about Asians during a class.
Roughly 100 students and teachers attended the virtual symposium hosted by the Juilliard School. Attendees say the violinist invoked racist stereotypes in his comments, leading Juilliard not to share a video of the class with participants.
“At one point, Zukerman told a pair of students of Asian decent that their playing was too perfect and that they need to add soy sauce,” two participants who attended the class confirmed to The New York Times. While trying to encourage the students to play lyrically, he said he “understood that people in Korea and Japan do not sing.”
Juilliard has tried to distance itself from the virtual symposium, describing Pinchas Zukerman as a guest instructor.
The school also responded to complaints about the comments, saying his “insensitive and offensive cultural stereotypes” did not represent the school’s values. Zukerman issued a public apology on Monday for what he says were ‘culturally insensitive’ comments.
“In Friday’s master class, I was trying to communicate something to these two incredibly talented young musicians, but the words I used were culturally insensitive,” the violinist says in a statement. “I’m writing to the students personally to apologize. I am sorry that I made anyone uncomfortable. I cannot undo that, but I offer a sincere apology. I learned something valuable from this, and I will do better in the future.”
Pinchas Zukerman is a celebrated violinist and conductor whose career spans decades. His guest instructor spot was the biggest name at the Juilliard event. The Starling-DeLay Violin Symposium is focused on violin teaching and focuses on young musicians.
“After the sisters played a duet, Zukerman told them they should try bringing more of a singing quality to their playing,” participants of the class confirmed to The New York Times. Zukerman then told the sisters he knew Koreans did not sing. One of the sisters interrupted to say they were not Korean, but of Japanese descent. Zukerman replied by saying that people in Japan did not sing either.
The remarks prompted an outcry among the Asian American community. Many musicians shared their stories on social media of being told their playing lacked emotion or was too technical.
Some also compared the remarks to the rise in anti-Asian sentiment in the United States over the last year. The rise of the coronavirus has triggered many attacks on Asian communities in cities across the United States.