1. What is your name and your profession(s)? Jonah Wei-Haas. Professional musician, keyboardist/ pianist, producer, and teacher.
2. What is your ethnic background and what is your citizenship (US native or naturalized etc.)? I am an Asian American US Citizen. 1/2 Chinese 1/2 Eastern European descent.
3. Are either/both of your parents musicians or somehow involved in the music industry? Neither of my parents are musicians or involved in any part of the industry.
4. Please tell us a little bit about your experience, either growing up as an AAPI in America, or as a person of Asian descent who immigrated to America, whichever applies. My experience growing up in America has been mostly great. I have been blessed to have an incredible family and network of friends that support and build each other up. That said, I do have difficult memories from early childhood of racism and bigotry growing up in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I remember being only 5 years old and hearing a white student refer to me as a “chink” on the playground and the other kids laughing and stretching their faces to have slanted eyes. I couldn’t fully process at the time how much ignorance and hate fueled that bullying, but it will always be something that I’ll remember.
5. How connected do you feel to your heritage/culture(s)? I don’t feel as connected to my heritage/culture as I could perhaps be. Other than certain food traditions, I definitely feel very ‘Americanized’ and less traditional Chinese.
6. 6a.) How did you get into music? Did you major in music in college? Where did you attend college/university (and grad school(s), if applicable) and in what subjects did you get your degree(s)? 6b.) When and how did you decide you were going to pursue music professionally? What were your parents’ reactions to you deciding to pursue music? Do they support your music career now? I’ve been playing piano since the age of 8. I’ve been interested in music even longer. I remember singing in choirs and making my own ‘percussion’ instruments well before I even started taking classical piano lessons. I went on to attend Berklee College of Music in on scholarship and graduated with dual degrees in Piano Performance and Electronic Production & Design. -I actually remember one of the defining moments in my childhood where I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in music. I was 10 years old; my dad took me to my first rock concert - Green Day and Saves The Day at the Brady Theatre in Tulsa, OK. I had never seen a musical performance like this where the performer captivated so much of the audiences attention, it was truly mesmerizing. I remember Billie Joe Armstrong (Green Day frontman) had the whole room in the palm of his hand. And at that moment, I knew that I wanted to be on stage. I had no idea how or why, but it was something that I knew that I had to do in my life. -I’m incredibly lucky to have such amazingly supportive parents. When I told them that I wanted to pursue music as a career and go to Berklee for college, they we’re so supportive. It’s been a lot of hard work a long the way, but they’ve supported me at every step.
7. What are a few of your (music) projects of which you are the proudest? What were your roles on those projects? Beyond those projects, please feel free to name some of your other credits as well as any brands/companies you officially endorse. I am incredibly proud of my achievement of over 100,000 subscribers on my YouTube channel. I started that channel as more of a way to document certain projects that I was working on and to look back and see how far I had grown. So it was especially special when many of my videos drew the attention of other artists and influencers. (YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/jweihaas) -I was a founding member of the viral band, Pinn Panelle. We took on the challenge of performing Dubstep and EDM but completely live on instruments with no playback from a computer. -I’m incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to work with many amazing musicians and artists including: Rich Brian, Bea Miller, Aliyah Moulden, Branden + James, MOONZz, Philip-Michael Scales, Robbery Inc., and Love, Alexa.
-I proudly endorse Nord Keyboards, Moog Synthesizers, Ableton Live, IK Multimedia, and Lewitt Microphones.
8. Describe to me your dream project. A dream music project for me is any project that I get to work on with other passionate musicians/people. I know that might sound super generic, but to me the most exciting part of music is the collaborative effort. When everybody is working as a part of a team for a greater purpose it brings me immense joy. No drama, passionate and talented musicians, creative freedom, performance, cool conversations/hands, and a decent budget = dream musical project.
9. What are some obstacles you have encountered (if any) being an AAPI in the music world? What are some obstacles you have encountered (if any) as an AAPI in general (non-music)? Conversely, has being an AAPI ever helped you in the music industry? I feel very grateful for all of the experiences in my life - good and bad. I’m lucky that I have not encountered many obstacles in my life or career due to being an AAPI, or perhaps I’m just really good at not noticing/caring about it if people make a big deal out of something. I would definitely be lying if I said that I’d never heard some stereotype about Asians and music x math while on the gig; I may have even leaned into said stereotypes in order to ‘get a laugh’ or feel like I’m ‘fitting in’. Luckily, I’ve been able to curate my network and not have to rely on any person who would make me feel less than for being of Asian descent.
10. 10a.) Who are some AAPI musicians/composers/producers who have previously inspired and currently inspire you (if any)? Why? 10b.) What are your hopes for the AAPI music community and your hopes for AAPIs in general? Hiromi Uehara and Ryo Fukui are two very influential Japanese jazz pianists in my playing and upbringing. Hiromi was one of the first musicians that I heard using synthesizers in a way that I had never quite heard before. I’ve been lucky enough to see her perform several times and all of the performances were incredibly inspiring. I hope to continue to grow and network more in the AAPI music community. In general, I hope that the AAPI community can band together with other groups in racial unity and cause real meaningful social change.
11. If you could give advice now to your younger teenage self, what would you tell her/him/they? I would tell a younger version of myself to not rush through things so much, or rather don’t feel like you need to rush as much; to be able to appreciate the whole journey.
12. Do you have any upcoming projects for which you are excited and about which you are allowed to share? Is there anything non-music-related on the horizon about which you would like to share? I took part in a really cool live performance recording a few months ago with Luke Holland for an artist named shYbeast. I also have been producing the upcoming EP for a new R&B Pop artist that will be releasing later this summer. There are other musical projects and schemes in the works.
13. Name one or two non-music-related things/subjects about which you are also passionate.
One of my favorite things is experiencing food and eating customs of different countries. I love discovering new foods and flavors. I also really enjoy listening to podcasts and hiking.
YouTube: Jonah Wei-Haas
Jammcard: Jonah Wei-Haas
Photo provided by Jonah Wei-Haas