When three music industry students from Drexel University’s Antoinette Westphal College of Media & Design came together to create a group that would shine a light on Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) music industry students and professionals, they hit a roadblock when trying to come up with a name.
“We just sat around a bubble tea shop together and threw ideas around, then I came up with GOLDNHR, because at the time, it was golden hour,” founder Ash Dacanay, music industry ‘23, said. “Then, we thought it rolled off the tongue smoothly, and there’s also some cultural significance because Danielle [Spiegel, music industry ‘23,] and I are Filipino and on the Filipino flag, there’s a sun, and the name is reminiscent of that. And then we realized it’s a perfect idea because it’s about shining a light on the AAPI community.”
GOLDNHR is the brainchild of Dacanay, Spiegel and Andre Pak, music industry ‘23. It’s a group designed to bring aspiring AAPI music professionals together to grow and navigate the competitive industry, and it started as the trio’s senior project. Jeffrey Apruzzese, program director of music industry at Westphal, was their adviser and said he was hooked on their idea from the first day he met with them.
“Ash, Danielle and Andre are some of the brightest and most ambitious students that I have had the pleasure of working with since I have been here,” Apruzzese said. “The music industry has historically been run by white males and I could not be prouder to see them using their experiences to create and foster growth and diversity within the industry. These three students will without a doubt be a presence in the industry when they graduate next month.”
Pak said he gravitated towards the idea because there hadn’t been anything like that during his time at Drexel and he wanted to build something for the community, and Spiegel liked the idea of it being community-based within Philly and Drexel.
“The initial idea behind this is that there’s just not a lot of resources that are geared specifically towards the AAPI community for getting into the arts and entertainment industry,” Dacanay said. “Personally, while I was growing up, the music industry wasn’t always accepted in my family as a normal career path, so there can be a lot of extra barriers that people in our community have to face to enter this industry.”
As the trio has gone through the process of building the group, they’ve become more aware of the lack of representation for AAPI professionals in the music industry. It’s important to them to keep the group going, because it can impact more and more people as time goes on. GOLDNHR is meant to provide the community they’ve found with each other to more students, especially now that there are a few more students to connect with. Since the trio started at Drexel in 2018, the number of AAPI students enrolled in the music industry major has grown from 11 to 20 by 2022, and at Westphal in general it’s grown from 189 to 253 by 2022.
“The group is so catered to the Drexel and Philly communities, so we’ve all been in the same boat as each other and it’s nice to have a community not only of people who could be mentors, but also people who understand where you’re coming from and who have similar perspectives to you in terms of cultural background,” Pak said. “It’s nice to have support from other students, too. In our major there are still only a few Asian people, so Danielle and Ashley are the people I lean on when I need that cultural support.”
GOLDNHR has hosted a few events this year, including a bubble tea meetup and an interview workshop to help the student community get to know each other as well as grow their skills to be more prepared to look for jobs and co-ops.
Their biggest event of the year is yet to come. From 6–9 p.m. on May 23 in Classroom 239 in the URBN Center, GOLDNHR will host an end-of-year panel with Asian music industry professionals, including alumni and special guests, who will speak about their experience in the industry. It’ll serve as a teaching and networking event for interested students. Pak said it’s also a way to connect the Drexel community to the larger music community in Philly, and have those professionals share insight about what they do and their experiences in the industry.
“I always knew that representation was not where it needed to be, but as we were looking for panelists for our upcoming event, it was difficult to find established, Asian music industry professionals based in Philly,” Spiegel said. “Showing that those people do exist to the Drexel community will be beneficial because it’ll provide them with role models and show them there are people in the industry who have made it despite obstacles, and they can too. We think events like this will be super helpful for them to want to keep going and pursue their dreams.”