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Music

Kavakos and Wang Respond to Controversy over Alleged Racist Comment

NEW YORK – Two of the world’s most renowned classical musicians were embroiled in controversy over a July 26 Instagram post that made allegations of racism against Greek violinist Leonidas Kavakos and pianist Yuja Wang, WETA reported, adding that both Kavakos and Wang responded quickly on social media to deny the allegations and assert their staunch support for equal rights and inclusivity.

According to WETA’s report, “an anonymous person accused Kavakos and Wang of making racist remarks about a Black audience member after one of their joint recitals in Michigan,” adding that “the allegation was made via an Instagram account called ‘Orchestra Is Racist,’ one of several similarly geared social media accounts that have sprung up this summer.”

A superstar in the world of classical music, Wang responded to the allegations in a written statement sent through a representative to National Public Radio (NPR) on July 28, WETA reported. The full statement follows:

“It has come to my attention that a post has been shared on @orchestraisracist, with an anonymous report of a post-performance conversation in a car between Leonidas Kavakos and myself a couple of years ago in Michigan. I have no recollection of this conversation, but language and actions that are judgmental or discriminatory against anyone are unacceptable. The most important thing is how we treat each other, and I offer my sincerest and most humble apology, if I have ever offended anyone.

“I have faced personal and professional criticism, discrimination, and sexism countless times throughout my life and career. I know how hurtful that can be, and would never want to contribute to a negative culture or atmosphere that disparages others. It goes completely against what I believe. It's important to listen to the many voices speaking out right now. We have to be open with each other to allow for the opportunity to acknowledge our missteps, to forgive and to grow from these experiences."

In the comments section on the Orchestra Is Racist Instagram post, Kavakos “republished a comment that he had originally made on his own Facebook page on June 2, in the aftermath of George Floyd's killing,” WETA reported, quoting in part from Kavakos comment, “If WE want to look at Humanity as an accord consisting of human lives, and attempting to create its own Harmony, the atrocious act of killing George Floyd, has destroyed that attempt. It is an act that stabs US ALL creating severe wounds that threaten OUR Existence! If, additionally, this act is 'justified' by some kind of 'life rating according to skin color,' then I'm afraid, Humanity is suicidal.”

Kavakos did not directly comment on the accusation made on Instagram against him and Wang.

On July 29, a representative for Kavakos sent a statement to NPR, which follows: “I find accusations of any form of racism deeply upsetting and abhorrent. I will never accept any form of discrimination and I am vehement in my commitment to equal rights and inclusivity. If I have ever offended anyone by how I have previously spoken I wholeheartedly apologize to them and can assure them that any hurt caused was completely unintentional and does not reflect the person I am and my values. I welcome the current discussions that are taking place that are teaching everyone that we all have something to learn and need to listen to all voices.”

The Instagram post is available online: https://www.instagram.com/p/CDHe0e2gNXA/

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