Brian Sengdala

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I am a Ph.D. student in the Department of Performing and Media Arts at Cornell University researching Cambodian and Asian American studies, race, performance, sound, music, memory, and disability. I’m thinking about performance as memory work and study how second-generation Cambodian and Asian American artists imagine histories marked by silences caused by lost archives of things, peoples, and memories. Within this framework of memory, I’m also interested in how bodies navigate land in both Cambodia Town (Long Beach, CA) and minefields still present in Cambodia. Another interest of mine is thinking about food and memory.

I’m passionate about public work. I have presented exhibitions of archives, given concert lectures, and written program notes for events around the New York metropolitan area. My current project with geographer Hudson McFann is on the afterlives of Khmer refugees who found shelter in the Thai refugee camp, Khao I Dang—the same refugee camp my family fled to in the late 1970s. We are hoping to work on a model of archiving which decenters the traditional notion of a central hub and re-centers intergenerational conversation and healing in the home.

As a practitioner, I was a professional choral singer and conductor in the New York metropolitan area. I earned an M.M. with dual concentrations in American and public musicology and choral studies as well as a B.M. in voice performance from Westminster Choir College. At Westminster, I was a member of and graduate assistant conductor for the Grammy-nominated Westminster Williamson Voices. As a member of the Westminster Symphonic Choir, I also sang with the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Orquesta Sinfónica Simón Bolívar, and the New York Philharmonic among others. I served as a tutor and administrator at Westminster Choir College and, in conjunction with the University of Oxford Continuing Education programmes, the Choral Institute at Oxford. Prior to Cornell, I was a Ph.D. student in (ethno)musicology at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey.