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ITHACA, NY— Former “The Voice” contestant and YouTube singing sensation JR Aquino will perform at Ithaca College this month as part of Focus Asia, a month-long celebration that highlights the cultures and heritages of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

Aquino has performed original songs and covers on his YouTube channel since 2009. During blind auditions in season three of NBC’s “The Voice” competition in 2012, he got Adam Levine, Christina Aguilera and CeeLo Green to turn their chairs and offer to take them onto their teams. He chose CeeLo, but was ultimately eliminated during the first round of battles a month later.

His original song “By Chance (You & I)” has received well over 7 million views on YouTube, and many of his covers and remixes have over a million, 2 million, or 3 million views as well.

Sara Kim, a junior majoring in journalism and the vice president of public relations for the Asian American Alliance at IC, which organized Focus Asia month, said Aquino was a natural choice to bring to campus because he is a Filipino American who represents the “Side B” of stereotypes associated with Asian Americans.

“The ‘Side B’ narrative is the experience that goes against the stereotypical model minority myth, which depicts Asian Americans as pursuing careers as doctors, engineers, and lawyers,” Kim said. “JR has proved successful without conforming to that model minority—the Side A—narrative.”

Aquino will perform in the Klingenstein Lounge in the Ithaca College Campus Center at 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 21. The show is free and open to the public. There will be a meet and greet with the artist after his performance.

The full list of Focus Asia events, which are also free and open to the public:

Identity Panel
Friday, April 1, 7-9 p.m.
Park Center for Business and Sustainable Enterprise, Room 111

This panel discussion will explore the question “What exactly does it mean to be ‘Asian American?’” Student panelists who identify as Asian, or Pan Asian, will share their experiences and how growing up with this racial and ethnic identity shaped their perspectives in society.

Asian Cultural Dance Workshop
Thursday, April 7, 7-9 p.m.
Fitness Center, Wood Floor Gym

Dance troupes from Ithaca College and Cornell University will host a dance workshop and showcase various forms of cultural dances present within the Asian Diaspora. Attendees will have the chance to learn Filipino line dancing, Indian Bhangra, and many other art-forms.

Anti-Black Racism in Asian American Communities
Thursday, April 14, 7-9 p.m.

Park Center for Business and Sustainable Enterprise, Room 111

This panel discussion will involve both students and faculty, who will share personal experiences as people of color at Ithaca College. Discussion topics will include the ways in which the Asian American community can stand in solidarity with the Black/African-American community and where Asian Americans are positioned in the media’s representation of the black and white binary.

Asia Night
Friday, April 15, 6-9 p.m.
IC Square (Pub), Campus Center

Asia Night is the largest event of Focus Asia Month and is designed to bring the IC community together and spread awareness of Asian-American cultures. Student performers will show off their talents while attendees enjoy food, activity stations including candy sushi and origami, and fun activities and games between performers.

Ithaca Pan Asian American Film Festival
Friday, April 15-Sunday, April 17
Various locations and times (see website for more details)

The tentative schedule includes a screening of “Americanese,” a 2006 film adaptation of the novel “American Knees” by Shawn Wong, on April 15 at 4 p.m. in Textor Hall, Room 102. A Q&A with Wong, film director Eric Byler and producer Lisa Onodera-Spense is planned. An up-to-date schedule and information will be posted on the festival’s website:

The film festival, now in its second year, is a collaboration between Ithaca College, Cornell University and the local Ithaca community.

(Featured image courtesy of JR Aquino’s YouTube page)

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Michael Smith

Michael Smith reports on politics and local news for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached via email at, by cell at (607) 229-0885, or via Google Voice at (518) 650-3639.