Violinist Pinchas Zukerman’s Master Class Pulled After ‘Culturally Insensitive’ Remarks to Japanese Sisters

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated from its original version to include an email from Julliard informing participants and guests of performers’ nationalities.

Renowned violinist/conductor Pinchas Zukerman recently apologized for the anti-Asian statements he made during his master class at the Julliard School last Friday.

Racist comments: The Grammy-winner allegedly made some racial remarks during a recorded class included in Julliard’s biennial Starling-DeLay Violin Symposium, which is a teaching event for “promising young musicians” and many of whom are teenagers, reported the New York Times.

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  • One of the attendees, Violinist.com’s Laurie Niles, reported that Zukerman ridiculed two Japanese sisters who performed for the class.
  • Zukerman allegedly said: “Think less about how perfect to play and to play together, and more about phrasing. A little more vinegar — or soy sauce!”
  • He then advised them to play in a song-like manner before commenting that “In Korea, they don’t sing.” 
  • When one of the sisters said they are not Korean, Zukerman said: “In Japan, they don’t sing either.”
  • Zukerman also used a fake Asian accent and repeatedly made comments about Koreans not being able to sing. He later explained, “It’s not in their DNA.”

Apology to the students: On Monday, Zukerman apologized and acknowledged that his statements were “culturally insensitive,“ reported The Hill.

  • Zukerman wrote: “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.”
  • In a statement, Julliard said they decided not to post the recorded video of the class due to Zukerman’s use of “insensitive and offensive cultural stereotypes.” 
  • Artistic Director Brian Lewis and Julliard Director of Lifelong Learning John-Morgan Bush also offered their own apologies to the affected students, saying Zukerman’s remarks “did not represent the values of the Symposium or The Juilliard School.”
  • A violinist who also attended the master class, penned an open letter in defense of Zukerman, stating that the fault is with Julliard for not informing him of his students’ nationalities so he could’ve “couched his instruction in a different manner.” He added that because they are highly trained musicians that it’s expected that they don’t “let remarks of conductors or others get under our skin.”
  • Screenshots of an email Juilliard purportedly sent to all participants and guests before the symposium emerged online, with a Twitter user noting the detailed bios of all the performers were included in an attachment.

 

Zukerman, whose class numbered around 100 attendees, was this year’s most prominent instructor at the symposium.

Featured Image via second15cup (left), WDR Klassik (right)

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