The list below includes cultural centers, museums, and orchestras that focus on music and other art forms from specific areas of the world. While this list is not meant to be exhuastive, it can help spread awareness about these institutions and make their missions known.
The NYC Arabic Orchestra (New York)
The New York City Arabic Orchestra aims to promote and preserve Arabic classical music tradition. They host concerts, classes, and educational programs for anyone who is interested in learning more about music from the Arab world and Middle East. Programs range from more rigorous courses for trained musicians to outreach programs for younger children. The NYAO has performed in prestigious halls such as Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center and Detroit Symphony Hall. Professional musicians visit schools, refugee camps, and other cultural centers across the nation giving lectures. On their website you can also find traditional instruments such as ouds for sale. The oud is a string instrument that resembles the lute, with a history that can be traced back thousands of years to Persia.
If you are interested in learning more about Middle Eastern music and how it relates to immigration, I highly suggest watching the film “Wajd: Songs of Separation” directed by Amar Chebib. It covers the journey of Syrian refugees whose lives have been uprooted by the Syrian civil war and their tie to music. The refugees turn to Sufi music, devotional music found in South Asia that allowed them to stay connected to their home. This film is an excellent example of the importance of music and culture. It can be found here.
Performing Arts Center for African Culture (Maryland City, Maryland)
The Performing Arts Center for African Culture– PACAC for short– is a non-profit organization that focuses on heightening interest in various African cultures in creative ways. The PACAC website states: “The Center focuses on authentic African music; rhythms and Dances of antiquity, and storytelling. We showcase a wide array of indigenous musical instruments, and the colorful traditional outfits necessary for a better understanding and proper appreciation. Our goal is to safeguard, cultivate, and share the performing arts heritage, and the ongoing creativity of the various African cultures with all who are interested to benefit” (PACAC).
The PACAC not only hosts programs at their headquarters in Maryland City, but also leads cultural tours for students and adults. These tours offer an amazing opportunity to discover more about different African countries histories and learn from the indigenous people. In addition, PACAC offers event spaces, Afro yoga, language classes, and dance classes.
The Somali Museum of Minnesota (Minneapolis, Minnesota)
The Somali Museum of Minnesota was founded in 2011 and is currently the only Somali museum in the world. Their mission is to elevate the voices and work of Somali artists, no matter what medium they specialize in. The museum showcases art and artifacts, but also has a traveling dance troupe that teaches traditional Somali dance. Several of the students that form a part of this traditional dance troupe have only resided a few years in the U.S. Many of the students in the class have only called the U.S. home for a few years and are excited to share their culture.
The Somali Museum website is where you can find the dances the troupe learns and teaches across the country, along with their history and significance. The museum hosts a wide range of events, and it is a fantastic opportunity for people of all ethnicities to learn more about this culture and its people.
Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts (San Francisco, California)
The Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts was established in 1977 with the mission to “promote, preserve and develop the cultural arts that reflect the living tradition and experiences of the Chicano, Central and South American, and Caribbean people, and to make arts accessible as an essential element to community development and well-being” (Mission Cultural Center). Its executive director, Jennie Rodriguez, is a native Puerto Rican who strongly believes that “it is Music, of all art forms, that has the unique and magical power to engage us; breaking down barriers, and allowing us to ever so briefly join in harmony” (Mission Cultural Center).
The Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts hosts live concerts, in addition to streaming events live on Facebook and Instagram. They also focus on other aspects of art; for example, their current exhibition is titled: A Print Retrospective of Sólo Mujeres Show. It is a stunning exhibit of printmaking from women in response to the sexism of the art world.
New York Chinese Cultural Center (New York City, New York)
The New York Chinese Cultural Center (NYCCC) is another non-profit organization that is committed to sharing and appreciating Chinese culture. The NYCC offers educational programs, workshops, professional classes, and performances. Their core programs include:
The School of the Arts:
- This curriculum centers around Beijing opera acrobatics, Chinese dance, martial arts, and language. The School of the Arts operates all year round!
Dance China New York:
- The dance company of the NYCC trains dancers professionally to perform all around the country. The repertoire is advanced and includes many different genres of dance and music, including classical, modern, minority, and folk.
Arts in Education:
- The Arts in Education program focuses on grades K-12 and offers many enlightening and fun activities that center around deepening an appreciation for Chinese Culture.
- The Cultural Partnership focuses on the five boroughs of New York: the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens and Staten Island. In the past, they have partnered with Metropolitan Museum of Art, Lincoln Center, SummerStage Central Park, Snug Harbor Cultural Center, Queens Theatre, Queens Botanical Garden, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, and others to promote Chinese artistry.
American Syrian Arab Cultural Association (Troy, Michigan)
One of their collaborators: https://www.unicefusa.org/stories/piano-keys-syrian-kids-2018/34512
The American Syrian Arab Cultural Association (ASACA) was established in 1996 and seeks to familiarize the American public with Arabic heritage and culture. ASACA leads cultural events along with lectures and educational programs.
One of their annual musical events is called “Keys for Syrian Kids” which collaborates with UNICEF’s “Piano Keys for Syrian Kids” (see link above). This annual concert uses ticket revenue to raise funds for the Syrian refugee crisis. Many talented students perform and are recognized for their hard work that contributes to this event.
DANK HAUS- German American Cultural Center (Chicago, Illinois)
DANK HAUS is a German American Cultural Center in Chicago Illinois that aims to connect German immigrants, those with German ancestry, and anyone who is interested in German culture. They host events for the World Cup, Eurovision, Maifest, Stammtisch, concerts, Kinderfasching, Oktoberfest and more! Along with these events, the art gallery on site– Scharpenberg Art Gallery– promotes permanent and rotating exhibitions. The Scharpenberg Art Gallery’s current exhibition is titled: “Living Memory: German Americans In Their Own Words.” Some of their concerts include “The Three B’s”, which highlights the music of three famous German composers: Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms, and “Kinderchor”, a kids choir that performs for many different holidays.
Center for World Music (San Diego, California)
The Center for World Music’s vision “is a world that celebrates cross-cultural understanding, respect, communication, and healing through the performing arts traditions of cultures East and West” (Center for World Music). They bring musical traditions to schools around California, sponsor concerts and performances at festivals, and present workshops that include music from India, Indonesia, Mexico, Africa, Spain, and more.
The Center for World Music offers unique opportunities for participants to study abroad in locations such as Ghana, Turkey, China, Peru, and Mexico. These programs introduce learners to cultural and musical experts from around the world and include hands-on music and dance workshops.
Japanese-American Society of Minnesota (Minneapolis, Minnesota)
The Japanese-American Society of Minnesota, or JASM, is a non-profit organization that “provides a place where both individuals and businesses are able to engage in cultural activities, meet others with an interest in Japan, form new business relationships, learn, and build mutual respect between Japan and America” (JASM). Their goal is to create a mutual understanding between Japanese immigrants/citizens and U.S. citizens. Some of their artistic programs include:
- A concert that features Japanese and American musicians who showcase their mutual passion for music.
- This festival takes place annually in Como park, though restrictions may be present due to COVID-19. This festival features stage performances, Japanese food, and cultural demonstrations and activities.
- This event allows participants to visit Japan without having to purchase a plane ticket. Shinnenkai demonstrates the traditional practices of the Japanese New Year and aims to imitate the sights, sounds, and tastes of Japan in Minnesota.
Their newest upcoming event is on July 9th. It is a webinar all about Taiko drumming with expert Harisen Daiko. If you are interested in participating, you can register here!
Music is often referred to as the universal language. As someone who has studied music all of their life, I firmly believe that it holds immense value and significance to our cultures and lives. The list of centers and institutions above provide a jumping off point for learning more about how music affects our everyday lives and can bring us closer together.