April 8 – August 8, 2008
This photographic exhibition chronicles the international tours of legendary jazz musicians selected by the U.S. State Department to serve as roving cultural “ambassadors” from the 1950’s through the 1970’s. Over 100 compelling images, together with posters and other materials, portray the journeys of music greats such as Dizzy Gillespie, Benny Goodman, Dave Brubeck, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Benny Carter, and Sarah Vaughan. These musicians toured countries ranging from the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe to the Middle East and North Africa, where they played their world-famous music and interacted with people abroad — promoting a positive view of the United States at a time when Cold War tensions were at their height.
Jam Session includes nearly 100 compelling images of these legendary performances, providing unique insight into perhaps the most successful public diplomacy program of our time. The exhibit was curated by Dr. Curtis Sandberg, Meridian’s Vice President for the Arts, together with Professor Penny M. Von Eschen, an expert in the history of jazz diplomacy and author of Satchmo Blows Up the World: Jazz Ambassadors Play the Cold War.
To highlight the far-reaching impact of these great musicians’ voyages abroad, Meridian held two panel discussions on April 11, 2008 bringing together scholars, public diplomacy officials, and jazz enthusiasts, to share their knowledge of the State Department tours and examine the implications of these efforts as they relate to current needs. Legendary jazz pianist Dave Brubeck attended and offered insights from his tours — the first of which took place in 1958. After these discussions, renowned Polish jazz group the Jagodzinski Trio and the Brubeck Institute Jazz Quintet from the University of the Pacific in California performed Brubeck compositions.
The Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation
Mr. and Mrs. Michael Sonnenreich
Ms. Meryl Chertoff
Mr. Raymond Garcia and Dr. Fruzsina M. Harsanyi
In-kind donation of companion music CD for the U.S. exhibition tour: Music Sales Group
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