1. What is your name and your profession(s)? Mike Bond and I’m a professional pianist/music director/composer
2. What is your ethnic background and what is your citizenship (US native or naturalized etc.)? I am multi-racial Chinese, English, Irish American.
3. Are either/both of your parents musicians or somehow involved in the music industry? 1. Both my parents played the piano for fun, they are both amateur musicians, but taught themselves and continue to teach themselves difficult classical repertoire.
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. I grew up in Old Bridge, NJ in the early 90’s. My mother is a first generation Chinese American, and my father is Irish and English. My brother and were part of a very small number of Non-white kids in our school district. At the time, there was a lot of racism in and around my neighborhood, so we were kept indoors a lot of the time growing up. We therefore, spent a lot of our time doing indoor activities. I practiced a lot as a result.
5. How connected do you feel to your heritage/culture(s)? I feel connected to my heritage as a Chinese American a great deal. I have a very close relationship with my mom’s side of the family. We spend every holiday together with my cousins and aunts, uncles, and my grandparents. We observe Chinese traditions, and eat great food together. With my family I feel a strong sense of my Chinese heritage. Outside of my family however, as a bi-racial person, I feel I need to “prove or convince “ others that I’m Asian. That has always affected how I personally feel about my identity.
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)? My parents had my brother and I take lessons. I observed my brother taking lessons when I was around 3 1/2, and took lessons shortly after that myself. I took classical lessons and played competitively for around 7 years before quitting. I took up the saxophone in band, played piano for fun on my own, and then took jazz lessons when I was around 14. I double majored in music in college : Jazz Performance/Music Ed. at Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University in New Brunswick.
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? My parents were supportive of my pursuit of the arts, but were adamant that I needed to consider more secure options as a working musician: benefits, healthcare etc. They are very supportive of the path I’ve taken now.
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 proud of the growing list of world-renown artists that I have played with and have been mentored by including: Orrin Evans, Savion Glover, Jerry Weldon, Billy Kilson, Josh Evans, Conrad Herwig, Curtis Lundy, Duane Eubanks, Byron Landham etc. I also am proud of the album I got to release last year called “The Honorable Ones” in February of 2020. Past awards include the Arthur G Humphrey Award for Music Education and the Excellence in Jazz Award at Rutgers, the NJ state-wide Perry award in “Outstanding Music Direction”, and I was a featured sideman on Jean Chaumont’s “Beauty of Differences” which was awarded 4 stars in Downbeat magazine. I have worked with Savion Glover at NJPAC as his music director for their revival of “Tap Dance Kid” as well as his pianist for a number of engagements that unfortunately were cancelled due to COVID-19 restrictions. I was a sub-pianist for the Grammy nominated Captain Black Big Band from 2011-2014.
8. Describe to me your dream project. My dream music project would be to tour with a group of like minded multi-racial folk and that we can have an honest dialogue through our music about what it’s like to be from multiple places. I would love to do music projects that challenge the systemic barriers between minorities and gender/non-gender conforming people. I am just now getting into writing lyrics and so I hope to continue to do that as well.
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? One of the challenges I face as an AAPI, is being sometimes treated like I am not a part of the scene. I think, looking Asian, people are surprised when you can swing or groove on the bandstand because the stereotype is that we are stiff and disconnected from our emotions. There are times where we are not treated as a part of the community, and sometimes we are treated as guests, but not acknowledged as part of the greater family of musicians that make up the scene. Aside from the very regular racist jokes and stereotypes in the work place, and other various social settings...there was one time where I wasn’t welcomed at a restaurant for my ethnicity. Not too long ago, my family and I traveled to South Carolina to see the solar eclipse. On our way back up, we stopped by a restaurant in Virginia. When we walked in, the whole restaurant stopped and stared at us. When we asked what the wait was, they said they were all booked even though there were plenty of seats. When we asked about it, we got the same blank stares from a restaurant of white faces. It was clear we were unwanted there for how we looked.
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? I am inspired by : Jacob Collier, John Chin, Chien Chien Lu, Wen-Ting Wu, Peter Lin, David Wong, Miki Yamanaka, Linda Oh, Helen Sung, Hiromi Euhara, Vijay Iyer, Rudresh Manthappa, Zakir Hussain, Yo-yo Ma, Anderson Paak, - this is just a small number of artists that have either influenced my music, have had a direct involvement in my growth as a musician or both.
11. If you could give advice now to your younger teenage self, what would you tell her/him/they? I would tell them that when your mentors in this music tell you to “Do You,” that it might frustrate you at first, but to hold fast to that phrase. The things you like, both musically and non-musically are important to your identity. Do not be shaped by what the world expects of you but instead, set your own expectations, fall in love with the things that set you apart, and pay attention when you need rest. Self-love is the heart beat behind your music, so “do you” and give yourself as much grace as you need while you continue to figure that out.
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 will be releasing a music video and debut singer songwriter single in a few months! It is my first venture into lyric writing, and I am very excited to share it.
13. Name one or two non-music-related things/subjects about which you are also passionate. Hobbies include tennis, table tennis, and gaming. I am passionate about social justice and activism in the dismantling of white supremacy, patriarchy, and religious bigotry. I am also a big advocate of mental health awareness.
14. Any final thoughts? Alternatively, do you have any questions for me and/or the greater AAPI music community? I feel that the time that we have spent indoors, with sickness and death on our mind almost daily for a year...has taken an unbelievably hard toll on us as a world. In that time however, we as a music community have experienced what it’s like to be stripped away of our reputations, careers, etc. The back to basic fundamental truth is that we need to be there for one another, and that the spirit of the music comes from how we are to celebrate our collective humanity over our individual success. We shouldn’t forget that when the pandemic is over.
Spotify: Mike Bond
Photo provided by Mike Bond