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Classical Musician Plays at Kennedy Center

The Kennedy Center for Performing Arts, in Washington, hosted Cambodian classical musician Chum Ngek last week, to represent both Cambodian tradition and the state of Maryland.

At the center, he played three solos on his "roneat aik," a kind of treble xylophone, and led the classical ensemble.

Chum Ngek is a recipient of the Bess Lomax Hawes Fellowship award for service to his community, and is a master of Cambodian music, an accomplished performer and revered teacher.

The Kennedy Center is featuring arts across America, presenting artists from 51 states and many disciplines and backgrounds, including music, dance and theater.

The Kennedy Center invited Chum Ngek "to work with a number of masters in different traditional realms of performances," said Garth Ross, director of performing arts. "He represents Maryland and Cambodian cultures."

"Our goal is to invite him to make sure that the Cambodian culture is represented, and we know him to be the foremost teacher and performer," Ross said.

Chum Ngek was thrilled about performing at the Kennedy Center, where he has been invited to play many times in the past.

"I am glad that our Cambodian art is recognized," he said, adding that he was grateful to other Cambodian performers who had paved the way, as well as the support of the Cambodian-American Heritage and Buddhist Society groups.

Chum Ngek has released a CD of Pin Peat songs titled "Hom Rong."

Classical "pin peat" is associated with the Angkorian empire, and contemporary repertoires date back to the mid-19th Century, when then king Ang Duon revived Khmer culture, including court music and dance.