USIA - KENNEDY CENTER JAZZ AMBASSADORS TOUR OVERSEAS
Questions & Answers
How did the performing artists Ambassador program get started? Why is it important?
The program was designed to demonstrate the creativity, vitality, diversity and democratic quality of this American art form for countries with limited access to American musicians. The presentation of performing arts in Africa, the Near East and South Asia is very labor intensive for our small diplomatic posts. Logistics are often quite involved. To lessen the strain for our posts as well as that on our small budget for cultural programs, it was decided to present jazz duos. These duos were selected not only for their artistic talent but for their ability to discuss music as a business and the need for intellectual property rights protection. Such economic issues are an important focus of USIA's public diplomacy mission.
Probably not - although strong jazz aficionados of the avant garde style might recognize multi-reedist Makanda Ken McIntyre's name. In the `60s, McIntyre performed with Eric Dolphy, Cecil Taylor, Jaki Byard, and the Jazz Composers Orchestra. Over the years, he has led his own groups and played in Charlie Haden's Liberation Music Orchestra while teaching in universities.
The Jazz Ambassadors perform for both general public audiences as well as for guests invited to a special function hosted by the American ambassador or other high level embassy official. They also conduct workshops with host country musicians and academics.
Pop music is widely available, including rap, along with rhythm and blues, country and western music as well as jazz.
Performing arts programs hosted by Ambassadors provide embassy and USIA officials
an opportunity to meet host country government officials, members of the diplomatic community and political, cultural, and academic leaders in an informal setting. In regions where tensions may be high, this kind of program enables our diplomatic post to continue to engage high level contact audiences and broaden our dialogue in a more neutral context. Such events also highlight an aspect of U.S. culture and showcase America's cultural diversity and excellence.
We did a trial run with Jazz Ambassadors in 1996. Also, for several years prior to that time, we had the presented the Artistic Ambassador program featuring classical musicians. The budget has become very limited for cultural presentations, so we chose to go with a genre that was uniquely American.
Brandon and Lenora represent both emerging artists and those without wide name recognition who have a career in the music business.
Jazz is seen as an American musical form and symbolic of our multi-cultural society. It may well be more popular in some other countries than in the U.S.
Our efforts generally are directed at international audiences, not the domestic scene. This is our first venture co-sponsoring domestic concerts. With international audiences in mind, we are not promoting jazz as much as we are presenting a unique aspect of U.S. culture. We also have presented abroad other forms of music from country and western to conjunto and classical music.