Hope College professor releases record to break stereotypes

HOLLAND, Mich. (WOOD) — A music professor in West Michigan is using his talents to raise awareness about an issue that has affected his community hard during the pandemic.

It’s no secret that 2020 was a tough year. People from one community in particular, Asian Americans, say it’s a time that they faced like no other.

“I think that when we look back at this time, I think music is one of the ways that we tell stories like this,” said Jordan VanHemert, assistant professor of music at Hope College.

VanHemert says 2020 was nothing he could have ever expected.

“I think that there is an issue in the Asian American community where we were blamed for a problem that’s not something that we created or brought to this country,” VanHemert said.

VanHemert decided to take his emotions and put them in a place he knew best — his saxophone.

“To be able to put sound into a place where words can’t go,” VanHemert said.

The jazz musician is now releasing a record titled “I AM NOT A VIRUS.” He’s hoping to break stereotypes surrounding Asian Americans and the racism they face.

“I never had any Asian role models that I could look up to as musicians,” VanHemert said. “A lot of times, there are societal pressures for Asian Americans to be doctors or lawyers. This record for me is about creating a more multi-dimensional picture of who we are as people of color and our contributions to society.”

VanHemert wants to send a message to others that will break stigmas, defy stereotypes and inspire toward a better future.

“For me, if there was one young student who would look at me and say, ‘I think I can do that, too,’ that would mean the world to me,” VanHemert said.

VanHemert’s record “I AM NOT A VIRUS” will be released on March 12. More information on his music and message can be found online.