Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Cecilia Wang, December 20, 2021

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:01 - Interview Introduction

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Partial Transcript: Okay. I think this is recording. My name is Keiko Tanaka. I'm doing this interview with Dr. Cecilia Wang. Today is December 20th, 2022. This interview is for AAPI project.

Segment Synopsis: Dr. Keiko Tanaka introduces herself and her interviewee, Dr. Cecilia Wang.

Keywords: AAPI; Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders

Subjects: Oral histories

00:00:18 - Biographical information

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Partial Transcript: Okay, Cecilia, first thing I'm going to ask you is, will you tell a little bit about yourself, including your full name and then if it's possible, can you tell us about your Chinese name as well?

Segment Synopsis: Wang discusses her early childhood in Hong Kong, experiences playing the piano, and the origin of her American name.

Keywords: American names; Catholicism; Chinese names

Subjects: Hong Kong (China); Music; Piano; Teachers

GPS: City of Hong Kong
Map Coordinates: 22.3193, 114.1694
00:04:11 - Taking piano lessons / Attending school in Hong Kong

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Partial Transcript: That's funny. Okay. So, when you started taking a piano lessons, um what was it like? I mean, was it something you enjoyed doing from the beginning?

Segment Synopsis: Wang provides some background about the privilege and significance of taking music lessons in Hong Kong (as a British colony) and in the United States. She talks about her different music teachers and compares the education systems of the two countries.

Keywords: Exams; Lessons; Second World War; WW2; WWII; World War 2

Subjects: Colonies; Education; Great Britain.; Hong Kong (China); Music; Piano; United States; World War II; World War Two

00:12:06 - Education and move to the United States

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Partial Transcript: Okay. So, so, let’s, let me ask you about how you end up in Kentucky. So, from Hong Kong to Kentucky, what happened between that journey?

Segment Synopsis: Wang came to the United States after applying to several schools for undergraduate degrees in music. She decided to attend Viterbo University, a private Catholic school in La Crosse, Wisconsin. She discusses her relationship with her parents and how they viewed her education going into undergraduate and graduate programs.

Keywords: Catholicism; Colleges; Doctorates; Graduate schools; Undergraduate degrees; United States (U.S.); Universities

Subjects: Catholic Church; Education; Hong Kong (China); Kentucky; La Crosse (Wis.); Music; United States; Viterbo University

GPS: Viterbo University in La Crosse, Wisconsin
Map Coordinates: 43.8021, 91.2451
00:23:15 - Graduate school in Texas

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Partial Transcript: Yeah. That's true. So, so then, for the graduate, where did you go for the graduate degree?

Segment Synopsis: Wang recounts her experience applying to graduate schools. She was connected to a professor at Texas Tech University, and ultimately decided to attend a music pedagogy program there, where she developed an interest in music psychology. She mentions that she also met her future husband there.

Keywords: Graduate schools; Pedagogy

Subjects: Education; Music; Piano; Texas; Texas Tech University

GPS: Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX
Map Coordinates: 33.5842591,-101.8804709
00:30:10 - Professional development / Arrival at the University of Kentucky

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Partial Transcript: Yeah. So, so, I applied, and here, University of Kentucky.

Segment Synopsis: Wang describes her and her husband’s transition from Texas to Kentucky. She notes how her first impressions of Kentucky were quite positive. Wang was hired at the University of Kentucky and her husband was hired at a local architectural firm. She recalls this period of settling into their new life together as a very happy time.

Keywords: Bluegrass; Interviews; Job applications

Subjects: Bluegrasses; Kentucky; University of Kentucky

GPS: University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY
Map Coordinates: 38.0306801,-84.537745
00:35:53 - Teaching music education at the University of Kentucky

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Partial Transcript: So, tell me about at the time at UK music department, how many faculty were there? Do you remember?

Segment Synopsis: Wang describes the music department at the University of Kentucky when she first started working there. Wang says that at the time the program largely focused on musicology and performance. Wang talks about how she fulfill a need for music education courses, and reflects on how much the field of music education has grown since then.

Keywords: Music education; Professors

Subjects: Music; Musicology; University of Kentucky

00:40:12 - Early career challenges

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Partial Transcript: So, over the years, this is kind of like a jump to the more recent time, so over the years, did your DOE, distribution of effort, did it change to include more research, or was it always very much teaching heavy?

Segment Synopsis: Wang describes how she faced challenges navigating university hiring practices and institutional expectations because she did not have good mentorship early in her career.

Keywords: Advising; Advisors; Hiring; Mentors; Mentorship

Subjects: Professional development; Research; Teaching

00:44:37 - More reflections on graduate school experience / Importance of mentorship

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Partial Transcript: So, you said that when you were in the graduate school, you also didn't get mentored about how to manage this job. So, of course you were mentored about probably the discipline, but this kind of, you know, how to build your career type of mentoring, did you have that? It's like how to apply for jobs, how to prepare for that? None of that.

Segment Synopsis: Wang recalls how her advisor’s mentorship in graduate school benefitted her professional development and studies in music education. Wang feels that she had to navigate most her program and the institution on her own.

Keywords: Advisors; Mentors; Mentorship

Subjects: Careers; Education; Music; Professional development

00:49:32 - Publishing research

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Partial Transcript: So, did you continue on that dissertation research? I mean, did you expand it once you got here and become assistant--

Segment Synopsis: Wang recalls her difficulty securing funding for research and publishing articles and notes again how she had little to no guidance in these processes.

Keywords: Academic journals; Dissertations; Funding; Mentors; Mentorship; Support

Subjects: Professional development; Research

00:52:18 - Asian and female faculty and staff at University of Kentucky in the late 1970s

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Partial Transcript: So, I want to switch a little bit of gear, and then ask you about... So, I'm assuming in the 1975, were there-- right this moment, the Asians and the Asian Americans are the one of, is actually, the largest group among so-called minority categories.

Segment Synopsis: Wang names the few Asian faculty and staff members at the University of Kentucky in the late 1970s. She notes how there were also very few female faculty and staff members at that time as well. She describes how, although limited, there was a sense of camaraderie among the female faculty.

Keywords: Asian; Diversity; Minorities; Professors

Subjects: Asian Americans; Asians; Minorities; University of Kentucky

00:58:00 - Cultivating a social life in Kentucky

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Partial Transcript: So, uh, how did you build your social life, um, after you came to UK?

Segment Synopsis: Wang describes how she tried to connect with other Asian Americans and community members.

Keywords: Community; Community involvement; Social life

Subjects: Asian Americans; Communities; Kentucky; Lexington (Ky.)

01:00:19 - Exposure to Chinese music / Participation in the World Music Program

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Partial Transcript: Yeah. I wonder that's the one that, um, oops, what was his name, who does, um, musicology? He was a visiting professor. And actually you were the one who brought him.

Segment Synopsis: Wang recalls being exposed to Chinese music as a child, particularly Cantonese opera and popular songs in Mandarin. She developed an interest in multicultural music as well, which led her to join the World Music Program at Northern Illinois University. She mentions that she was taught by Dr. Han there, with whom she shared a very warm professional relationship.

Keywords: Cantonese; Cantonese opera; Chinese music; Kuo-Huang Han; Mandarin; Multicultural; World Music Program

Subjects: Cantonese dialects; Folk songs; Mandarin dialects.; Musicology; Northern Illinois University; World Music

01:09:07 - Mentoring others / Support during the hiring process and immigration

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Partial Transcript: Okay. I want to--in relation to the Dr. Han, I want to go back to your mentoring issue.

Segment Synopsis: Wang returns to the importance of mentorship. She remembers how a recommendation letter from her advisor helped her be hired, and how this support was particularly valuable to her as she was also navigating the politics and bureaucracy of the immigration process. She says this experience inspired her to be a mentor to others.

Keywords: Immigrants; Immigration; Kuo-Huang Han; Mentors; Mentorship

Subjects: Emigration and immigration.; University of Kentucky

01:12:43 - Teaching World Music / Advocating for herself and Chinese culture within the University

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Partial Transcript: With this Dr. Hans workshops, and then also this, you know, your passion for Chinese music from coming from your grandmother and then their mother, did you try to incorporate some of those world music material into your classes in, uh--

Segment Synopsis: Wang talks about how her time with Dr. Han inspired her to incorporate more world music into her own teaching. She explains how she struggled to advocate for herself in her career, as she is informed by Confucian teachings that stress humility and respect for elders. She also notes how Chinese, particularly Buddhist, holidays are not recognized in the university system calendar, and it did not occur to her to ask for the recognition. She says that, despite this, she has witnessed a happily growing Asian culture in Lexington.

Keywords: Advocacy; Kuo-Huang Han; Promotion

Subjects: Asian Americans; Buddhism; Confucianism; Culture; Holidays; Lexington (Ky.); Religion; World Music

01:17:26 - Asian culture in Lexington

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Partial Transcript: So, I know you are part of, um, doing the Asian, Asian Center--did the Asian art festival. I don't know if you remember that. And then you and Donna both were involved in organizing some Asian music. And then, then now every year, school of music has, um, a world music concert?

Segment Synopsis: Wang discusses the activity of various Asian centers and clubs in Lexington. Wang mentions art festivals, music concerts, and dance programs and also notes how there are more Chinese schools and churches now that the Chinese population has grown.

Keywords: Asian Art Festival; Asian music; Chinese Association; Chinese churchs; Ethnomusicology

Subjects: Asian Americans; Chinese Americans; Dance; Ethnomusicology; Festivals; Kentucky; Lexington (Ky.); Schools, Chinese; World Music

01:21:15 - Availability of Asian food and groceries in Lexington

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Partial Transcript: Yeah. It is certainly has grown. So how have--so when you move to Lexington, probably there weren't that many, am I correct? That even in Lexington, there weren't that many--outside of the UK--were there any--have you run into somebody who look like Chinese or Japanese or?

Segment Synopsis: Wang details how the growing Chinese population in Lexington led to better Chinese and other Asian food options. Wang and Tanaka discuss particular Chinese grocery stores in the city. Wang mentions that she was involved in starting a Chinese grocery in Lexington.

Keywords: Asian grocers; Chinese food; Chinese grocers

Subjects: Asian Americans; Chinese Americans; Japanese Americans; Kentucky; Lexington (Ky.); Louisville (Ky.); Supermarkets; University of Kentucky

01:25:30 - Growing Asian population in Lexington, and at the University of Kentucky

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Partial Transcript: So, when did you started to notice, "Well, there are more and more Chinese or more and more Asian people living in Lexington now compared to the past"?

Segment Synopsis: Wang recalls noticing more Asian students, faculty, and doctors at the University of Kentucky starting in the late 1980s. She remembers seeing more Chinese New Year’s celebrations and other holiday celebrations hosted by the Chinese schools and the Confucius Institute. She also noticed more Asian people congregating in restaurants.

Keywords: Asian populations; Confucius Institute; Demographics; Populations

Subjects: Asian Americans; Chinese New Year; Chinese restaurants; Schools, Chinese; University of Kentucky

01:28:47 - Identity and place

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Partial Transcript: So now looking back, if I ask you, what is your then identity? I mean, what do you consider yourself as? How do you answer that?

Segment Synopsis: Wang explains how she still identifies with her family origins in Hong Kong, but considers Kentucky her home. Wang and Tanaka share their experiences of adapting their identities as they live between two “worlds,” China and the US, and Japan and the US, respectively.

Keywords: Accents; Immigrants; Language

Subjects: China; Home; Hong Kong (China); Identity; Japan; Kentucky; United States

01:34:29 - Experience of different accents in the United States

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Partial Transcript: When I went to Texas, my roommate could not understand me.

Segment Synopsis: Wang describes her difficulties with interpreting the different accents she encountered in the United States, and her experience communicating with her own accent in turn. She talks about her strategies for speaking with students.

Keywords: Accents; Language

Subjects: Accents and accentuation.; Communication; Teaching; United States

01:37:56 - Involvement with the Catholic Church

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Partial Transcript: So can I come back to the-- At one point, you say you were Catholic?

Segment Synopsis: Wang briefly explains how she is no longer practicing Catholicism, but still enjoys learning about Catholic and Buddhist teachings because she feels it is important to understand those perspectives.

Keywords: Catholicism; Choir; Cross-cultural understanding

Subjects: Buddhism; Catholic Church; Christianity; Religion

01:40:51 - Contribution to music education in Kentucky

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Partial Transcript: You contributed quite a bit in improving, I think, the music education here in Kentucky. How many students have you trained? I mean, how many of your former students are music teachers now?

Segment Synopsis: Wang describes her approach to music education, which she bases off of the ideas of Carl Orff, a German composer who emphases learning music through listening, discovery, and intuitive play. She finds that the gamelan, a percussion instrument native to Indonesia, is particularly well-suited to this type of music education, which is known as the Orff-Schulwerk approach.

Keywords: African music; Asian music; Music Education

Subjects: Education; Gamelan; Indonesia; Kentucky; Learning; Musical instruments; Orff-Schulwerk; Percussion; Teaching

01:44:37 - Music curriculum and summer workshops

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Partial Transcript: So, tell me about this training program you said that you started. So, do you do it as a part of the music education curriculum here? Or do you do some kind of summer workshops, or?

Segment Synopsis: Wang briefly describes the summer workshops she leads, and how they also follow the Orff Schulwerk approach.

Keywords: Curricula; Music classes; Music training; Music workshops

Subjects: Education--Curricula.; Orff-Schulwerk

01:46:33 - Concluding thoughts

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Partial Transcript: I think I have covered just about everything I wanted to cover, but do you have any other things that you want to tell me about? Oh, I didn't ask you about your children. Do you have children?

Segment Synopsis: Wang talks about her children and grandchildren. She stresses the value of world music as an effective means of learning about other cultures.

Keywords: Ethnomusic

Subjects: Children; Family; Grandchildren; World music