Outstanding Alumna Nancy Rao Received Awards for her Publication

Outstanding Alumna of NTNU (2018), Professor Nancy Yunhwa Rao of Rutgers University, was presented with three book awards from scholarly organizations: 2018 Music in American Culture Award from American Musicological Society; 2018 Lowens Book Award from Society for American Music and 2019 Book Award in Humanities and Cultural Studies from Associations for Asian American Studies.

Chinatown Opera Theater in North America (Illinois University Press, 2017)

The award-winning book tells the story of iconic theater companies and the networks and migrations that made Chinese opera a part of North American cultures. Rao unmasks a backstage world of performers, performance, and repertoire and sets readers in the spellbound audiences beyond the footlights. Its stories of loyalty, obligation, passion, and duty also attracted diverse patrons into Chinese American communities.

Awards and Recognition:

•Society for American Music

2018 Lowens Book Award

The Society annually awards this prize to the book judged as the best in the field of American music. It represents one of the society’s most prestigious honors and carries with it a monetary prize as well as a citation that will be presented at the annual national conference each spring. (Society for American Music was founded in 1975.)


The winner of the 2018 Irving Lowens Memorial Book Award is Nancy Yunhwa Rao for her book Chinatown Opera Theater in North America, published by the University of Illinois Press. This book, which engages with issues of racial exclusion, Asian cultural stereotypes, female impersonation and yellowface traditions in opera in a manner both timely and compelling, represents the author's long-term commitment to conducting research on the topic of Chinese-American music, reminding us that national borders were ever-porous and evolving in the history of music in performance, and highlighting patterns of immigration that have informed the deeply transnational aspects of American culture. The author takes on an under-represented topic and tells a colorful story about a genre that many have heard about but few can claim to know well until now, and certainly not in the context of the experiences of those who created it and experienced it.

•American Musicological Society

2018 Music in American Culture Award

The Music in American Culture Award honors each year a book of exceptional merit that both illuminates some important aspect of the music of the United States and places that music in a rich cultural context. The goal of this award is to recognize the best writing on music in American culture, regardless of the source or intended audience of that writing. (American Musicological Society was founded in 1934, and currently has 3,500 members.)


Nancy Rao displays staggering archival expertise to tell a far-reaching history of musical theatre in the trans-Pacific world. In sophisticated and eloquent prose, Rao insists on a transnational perspective that encompasses Canadian and US cities from Chinese operas origins in the mid-19th century through its peak in the 1920s and beyond. The book’s focus on immigrants and itinerant performers is a timely topic, confronting the history of discrimination against and stereotypes of Chinese people. At the same time, Rao empathetically delineates the role of this artistic practice in community identity formation. She also shows how forays into Asian music by figures such as Henry Cowell and Charles Seeger were shaped by their lived experience. This thought-provoking work is certain to have major impact.

• Association for Asian American Studies

2019 Book Award in Humanities and Cultural Studies (Media, Visual, and Performance Studies)

Each year, the Association for Asian American Studies (AAAS) recognizes authors and contributors in its Book Awards books of outstanding achievement. (Association for Asian American Studies was founded in 1974.)


Rao’s accessibly written book distinguishes itself through its careful, thorough, and multilingual research into Chinatown opera. The impressive scope of the project includes the United States, Canada, Mexico, Cuba, and Hawai’i, bringing disparate national sites into conversation with one another. The work successfully renders audible and visible the voice and music of Chinatown theaters across North America and allows readers to understand the role of Chinatown opera theaters in making of the Orientalist imaginary. By chronicling performance practices in detail, the book not simply reorients our understanding of this cultural phenomenon but it also offers a means to see how Chinatown Opera often conditioned notions of Chinese belonging and citizenship within the wider scope of geographic North America and beyond.

• Association for Recorded Sound Collections

2017 Certificate of Merit for Best Historical Research in Recorded Country, Folk, Roots, or World Music