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May 13, 2023


If you grow up in a home with a celebrated pianist for a mother and a world-renowned cellist for a father, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll at least consider a career in music. For Jun Iwasaki, there was never any pressure to pursue piano or cello, or any instrument for that matter. But the […]

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There are many roads to a theater career. Andi Meyer prepared for her profession by way of several traditional routes: She studied theater as a teen in North Dakota and earned a bachelor of arts degree at UMKC Theatre. She was also a part of the award-winning radio show, Right Between the Ears, and in […]

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Mara Khanna is a student at Kansas City Ballet School. She will attend New York University this fall, and she intends to study ballet and psychology. Rochester, Minnesota, is Mara’s hometown. During her time in Our Town, she has taken online classes with BlueSky in Minnesota. Mara has appeared in student roles in Kansas City […]

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Rachel’s Reads – May 2023

“For me, any story I tackle begins with the human relationships and not the plot.” – Celeste Ng For me, the short story is both an art form and a magic trick. Authors can write from a few pages to several thousand words and break my heart or give me an out-of-body experience. They can […]

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#AAPI TRAILBLAZER: Sergeant Stephen Stroder

With family from Tokyo, Japan, Sergeant Stephen Stroder of the North Patrol Division of the Kansas City, Missouri Police Department speaks some Japanese, and taught English in Japan for three and one-half years. Stephen is proud of his Japanese heritage. He has a degree in history from UMKC, is the father of three grown daughters, […]

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#AAPI TRAILBLAZER: Norma Shinno Irving Donlon

Norma Shinno Irving Donlon has resilience. Her ancestry is Japanese, and she was born in Arkansas during World War II. Because of that, Norma’s birth took place in the Camp Jerome War Relocation Center. At the age of seven, Norma lost her hearing due to an illness. She compensated by learning lip reading. Norma attended […]

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Mary Buche, who is of Korean ancestry and was born in Seoul, South Korea, is the first Asian American to serve as the chair of the Community Bank Advisory Council of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. She is senior vice president, fair banking & CRA officer at Lead Bank. (CRA stands for Community Reinvestment Act, […]

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Kunal Tanna is the assistant to the general manager of the Kansas City Chiefs. He is proud of his Gujarati Indian heritage. A tradition he is especially fond of is Navratri, a nine-day festival, which honors Durga, the goddess. Kunal’s father was from Mumbai, India. His late mother was born in Kampala, Uganda, which she […]

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Chris Constant was born in Seoul, South Korea, and grew up in Our Town. He and his husband, Rob Lundien, are the parents of two children. Chris serves as a board member with the Heart of America Council, Boy Scouts of America, and The Family Conservancy. Chris is a vice president with the Federal Reserve […]

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Weiyi Zhang was born in China and is an actor. Her education involved stints at several boarding schools, beginning when she was five years old. Weiyi later studied at the University of Iowa. While in Our Town, she was in the cast of productions such as A Midsummer Night’s Dream, William Shakespeare’s A Christmas Carol, […]

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Susie Yang is the associate principal cello, Richard Hill chair, Kansas City Symphony. She has been with the Symphony since 2010. Susie is originally from the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois. When she was 11, she made her debut with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Her teachers have included Andre Emelianoff and Laurence Lesser. Susie earned degrees […]

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Leyou Wang, who hails from Beijing, China, is a student at the UMKC Conservatory. He is a composer of concert music and music for films and games. Leyou’s work has received recognition at international composition competitions in The United States, China, and Germany. The Kansas State University Faculty Brass Trio performed his Mushroom March on […]

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Kwan Leung Ling, who is from Hong Kong, is a student at the UMKC Conservatory. He is a composer and plays the suona, which is a traditional Chinese wind instrument. At the end of this month, his new composition, Snowflower, will have its premiere in Hong Kong. The piece will be performed by Wai Him […]

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A graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music, Pianist Kuok-Wai Lio is a recipient of the Avery Fisher Career Grant administered by Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, the Career Advancement Award given by the Musical Fund Society of Philadelphia, and a Scholarship award by the Feltsman Piano Foundation. Kuok-Wai Lio is a student at […]

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Karen Lisondra is the associate director of Peter Pan and Wendy at the Kansas City Repertory Theatre. She is the fourth child of Filipino immigrants who settled in Hutchinson, Kansas, in 1973. During her childhood, Karen performed with Sinag-Tala, the Filipino dance troupe based in Kansas City. She studied anthropological theater and martial arts in […]

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#AAPI TRAILBLAZING: Sinag-Tala Performing Arts Troupe

Members of the Sinag-Tala Performing Arts Troupe function as the cultural ambassadors of the Filipino Association of Greater Kansas City. The Filipino Association was founded in 1968, and the Sinag-Tala in 1972. Dr. Lillian G. Pardo said, “As a co-founder and current executive director of the Sinag-Tala, the promotion and preservation of our rich cultural […]

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#AAPI TRAILBLAZING: Chinese Club and Lion Dance Team at Rockhurst High School

“As a Mandarin Chinese teacher and Lion Dance Team moderator, I have observed how Rockhurst High School students developed their learning interests from studying a hard language in the classroom to undertaking the physical challenge of traditional Chinese lion dance,” said Jackie Shao, who is also the Chinese Club moderator. For more than a decade, […]

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#AAPI TRAILBLAZING: The National Association of Asian American Professionals – Kansas City

The National Association of Asian American Professionals was started in New York City in 1982. The Kansas City chapter was founded by Cynthia Fung, Joel Ma, and Anita Ranhotra in 2010. The non-profit, all-volunteer organization promotes the career advancement and leadership development of Asian American professionals in all fields. The theme for 2023 is “Together, […]

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#AAPI TRAILBLAZING: Fountain of Life

Fountain of Life was founded in 2022 by Jennifer Tung Alexander, Cher-Yee Lye, and Rebecca Tsang. The organization strives to meet the health and wellness needs of Asian elders. It offers a variety of programs, including Matinee Movie Club, Asian art classes, Plaza Dancing, and events, such as field trips, Hot Pot socials, and the […]

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#AAPI TRAILBLAZING: Filipino Association of Greater Kansas City

In 1968, the Filipino Association of Greater Kansas City was founded by Dr. Edilberto Lorenzo, Dr. Manuel Pardo, Dr. Arnulfo Sulit, and William R. Ick to preserve, promote, and enhance Filipino culture through education and cultural arts, and to provide service to the community at large through its projects and programs. The Association supports the […]

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#AAPI TRAILBLAZING: Asian American Chamber of Commerce

The Asian American Chamber of Commerce of Kansas City was founded in 1998 by Young Sexton and Joseph Melookaran. The mission of the non profit is to, “enhance the economic opportunities for Asian American businesses through education, networking, and advocacy while promoting community engagement and visibility.” As John Thong, president, stated, “The past few years […]

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