1. What is your name and your profession(s)? Will Lowry. Artist Name: pantology. Profession: musician and producer.
2. What is your ethnic background and what is your citizenship (US native or naturalized etc.)? Half Korean, Half Northern European / Irish (according to 23andme??). US native.
3. Are either/both of your parents musicians or somehow involved in the music industry? Both of my parents are classical musicians. My mom is a concert pianist and came from South Korea to the US at age 12 to study at Juilliard. At this point she’s been a US citizen for most of her life and feels very westernized despite having strong ties to Korea and her family there. My dad is a cellist and plays with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Pops. They also both teach.
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 a town outside of Boston, MA that may have been like… 1% AAPI population? I would often be the only one in my class or even year in school at the earlier stages - I definitely remember feeling a bit like the odd one out because of my facial features and catching some uneducated slurs, slant-eyed taunts and other fun stuff when young. I did go through some dark times - I remember kind of wishing that I were more “normal” looking (which in my town meant simply, “white”). I’m glad that those desires are way in the rearview mirror and I’m pretty sure they were just a product of the demographics around me at the time and internalized stereotypes… for example I remember one friend of mine telling me, trying to be completely helpful and benevolent, that I should go to the gym because “jacked asians” could compete on the same playing field as white guys in dating - which is quite toxic. I also remember at one time I had an altercation with another kid on the basketball team who was saying gross things and drawing racist cartoons of my family as well. That stuck with me. By later high school, people had generally become a bit more educated and mature and I’d found a great group of friends who appreciated me despite me looking different - we’re all very close today.
5. How connected do you feel to your heritage/culture(s)? Since I grew up in the US and my mom was completely fluent in the US culture and I had very stereotypically “normal” interests outside music (like sports and video games and being an overall reading nerd) and non-AAPI friends, I kind of just felt culturally “normal” in that environment despite looking different - it was what I knew. I didn’t learn to speak Korean, which is a bit of a regret that I’m looking to change. I definitely felt a little separation from the few other AAPI kids in my school because they were often either immigrants or first generation themselves and say, speaking Chinese with each other and at home - I wasn’t really one of them either. The saving grace was that I went to Korea a bunch growing up - we were lucky enough to be able to see my mom’s family over several summers, which was amazing and educational. I always felt like it was this super special and unique boost to my self esteem to have a bicultural family, a secret that other people didn’t understand and that added to my identity. I loved exploring Seoul, trying as many new things as possible, and had some cousins close in age who really helped cement a better understanding and respect for it as well.
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)? I got into music around 5 learning classical piano from my mom and had a series of intense Russian and Japanese teachers haha. I did end up double majoring in Music along with Econ (my “serious” major) at Dartmouth and ended up with a B.A. from there with a senior thesis in music.
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? While music always occupied a special place in my heart, it wasn’t until around 2018 that I decided that it was time to start taking music more seriously despite having a day job as a software engineer. I kind of started “learning in public” and making videos and posting them, not really knowing what would come of it. In retrospect I didn’t have any idea what I was doing, but that willingness made me finish more stuff and put my name out there a bit, which has led to people reaching out to me, some collaborations and even lasting close friends. After about a year I realized that I wanted to create real musical releases and maybe even do it full time, and my parents, who had their own battle scars from careers in music, were a little protective and asked me to make sure I was really considering the risks. My dad said that it only makes sense to be a musician if you can’t imagine doing anything else - but I kind of disagree with that. I think it’s powerful to realize that you could be happy doing other things but to do music despite it being a less straightforward path. Either way, once they realized I was serious they were supportive and continue to be today.
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. While I am newer to creating and releasing my own music, I’m pretty proud of the work on my solo EP that I released in 2019, which is titled 2Q19. I’ve had some other music get more playlist recognition but this project felt like a super genuine artistic expression and still feels more interesting to me when I go back to it today (https://open.spotify.com/album/0PlJcvlYF015a5c2CslGWW). I think it was the first time I felt confident to just put out what felt truthful and do so without self-consciousness. I am also proud of the fact that within a year of releasing my first tracks I was invited to play in front of a sold-out Rough Trade NYC as an opener - I love performing live and it was immensely validating to get that invitation inbound out of the blue.
8. Describe to me your dream project. My dream music project is to collaborate with some of my favorite artists, some of whom have passed away, on a completely whacked out concept album - Kendrick Lamar, Flying Lotus, Terrace Martin, Herbie Hancock, David Lynch, Jimi Hendrix, Joni Mitchell, Nina Simone, D’Angelo, Whitney Houston, Alice Coltrane, Albert King. I know this is impossible but you said “dream.” So that’s it.
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 already discussed some of the general challenges in the growing up section, but I think within music specifically it’s been more subtle things as opposed to anything overt. Since I am obsessed with and oftentimes playing in Black music idioms these days, sometimes when I do something that sounds grooving (or just not ossified and classical and straight) people act kind of surprised or say they wouldn’t have expected me (or someone who looked like me maybe?) to have played that, which I think kind of means that people have expectations based on what I look like. But I overall don’t feel too fussed about it since I’m kind of a more recent entrant into an art form and culture - I sort of want to be respectful and not act entitled and to exceed expectations, which seems like a good thing. I’ve never had it really hold me back so far (I don’t think) - and I feel grateful to the NYC musicians who’ve been welcoming to me.
10. 10a.) Who are some AAPI musicians/composers/producers who have previously inspired and currently inspire you (if any)? Why? There are many - I am very inspired by Tokimonstah, Mndsgn, BIGYUKI, Nujabes, Mr. Carmack, Shigeto, Tadataka Unno (a jazz pianist I first heard in NY) and a whole lot of others. I think what amazes me about them is being able to succeed in genres that are not as traditionally populated by AAPI musicians, garner respect from the original communities, and add something of their own. I think they’re all artists who have really paid their dues and create from a place of deep resonance / rootedness in the tradition of the Black musics that they’re now inextricably part of but also take things in a direction that’s very signature and individual to themselves.
10b.) What are your hopes for the AAPI music community and your hopes for AAPIs in general? My hope for AAPI musicians is that it continues to become more and more common to see them up front, taking up space, not being quiet, improvising, having a huge voice - and that it will embolden more younger AAPI kids to try and dream to do the same.
11. If you could give advice now to your younger teenage self, what would you tell her/him/they? Advice to my teenage self - I’d tell myself that it’s ok to trust my gut, and that following a passion is in fact ok and not super self-indulgent or a non-respectable career. I’d tell myself that rabbit holing and getting obsessed with random esoteric stuff is cool and that I don’t need to pretend to be someone I’m not - and that taking more risks while young is the best time.
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’m not sure if I’m supposed to talk about one of them :D but I’m very excited to be releasing more solo material very soon and have some collaborations down the pipeline. Also, I’m living in Europe now! I’ll be back and forth some to NY, but it’s amazing to be living abroad for the first time in my life. I am also starting to teach both piano and production lessons, so if you want to get in touch and schedule a session or know someone who might be, please hit me up. https://calendly.com/pantologymusic
13. Name one or two non-music-related things/subjects about which you are also passionate. I’m also super nerdy and passionate about the human body (psychology, exercise, research, sleep, various kinds of training), history and how our culture has gotten to where it is and how it’s changing, and also how technology can be used to improve our lives and the future of people on the planet as oppose to bring out the worst qualities in human nature. Also philosophy and how to generally lead a more examined life and how to be a better human.
14. Any final thoughts? (non-self-promotional). Alternatively, do you have any questions for me and/or the greater AAPI music community? Thanks so much for putting this together Summer! I’ve learned about a lot of badasses from reading the rest of this blog and am excited for where this project goes.
Facebook: Pantology (Will Lowry Music)
Photo provided by Will Lowry (@pantologymusic)