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Musician will donate private papers to the Asian American Studies Institute (Released: 1/28/97)

by Luis Mocete, Office of University Communications.

STORRS, Conn. -- It was last February when Roger Buckley first met Fred Ho.

Ho, one of today's leading Asian American musicians, had just finished performing with his Afro-Asian Music Ensemble at the University of Connecticut. Buckley, director of UConn's Asian American Studies Institute, approached Ho and they began talking. Buckley quickly realized they both had similar interests in music and Asian American Studies.

"Ho felt the institute had a good program and he knew how important it is for programs at universities to have manuscript materials and special collections," Buckley said.

At 3 p.m. on Feb. 14, Ho will officially turn over his private papers to the institute at the Asian American Cultural Center. This will be the institute's first special collection; it will consist of musical scores and original essays that touch upon music, civil rights and social concerns for Asian Americans and people of color.

"Private papers and other special collections are an important mark of distinction and thus, they are sought by universities," Buckley said. "Working with primary sources like the Ho papers forces the reader to think for him or herself. This kind of research compels students to produce their own conclusions and assessment of someone or something without an intervening point of view. This will give students an opportunity to have a more intimate understanding of the author."

Not only will students and scholars have access to the papers, but the institute will offer a $300 scholarship based on Ho's papers every two years beginning in fall 1998.

Ho, a political activist, combines folk music elements from Asia and the Pacific Islands within a 20th-century African American context deeply influenced by Charles Mingus, Duke Ellington, John Coltrane and Cal Massey. He was born in Palo Alto, Calif., and grew up in Amherst, Mass. He began playing baritone sax at age 14, which coincided with his social awakening as an Asian American.

After he graduated from Harvard with a sociology degree, Ho went to work as a construction worker and a community activist. At that time, he returned to his music only "during periods of unemployment," Ho told Newsday.

His activism also led him to form a group of Chinese folk singers at the Asian-American Resource Workshop, which Ho founded in Boston. It was while working with the singers that he was first intrigued by the links between Chinese folk music and African-American blues.

He moved to New York City in 1981 and within months found work with Charlie Persip's Superband. With some musicians he met through that band, he formed the Afro-Asian Music Ensemble in 1982.

"When I talk to Fred Ho, I realize he is not concerned merely with entertainment," Buckley said. "Ho is also a social activist and a cultural historian, and these influences are clearly reflected in his music."