Meridian International Center and Partners Bring World Traveling American Jazz Ambassadors exhibit to Arizona

Tucson, AZ – Meridian International Center, Pima Community College in Arizona, and the Tucson Jazz Society will host a month-long exhibit of rare photographs of some of the world’s greatest musicians as they traveled the globe demonstrating that most American of art forms, jazz.

The Jam Session: America’s Jam Ambassadors Embrace the World exhibit, created by Meridian International Center in Washington, D.C., features photos of musicians who, as part of a U.S. Department of State initiative, were international “ambassadors of jazz” from the 1950's to 1970's and included such greats from Louis Armstrong and Count Basie to Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie. The exhibit, which has been on display in more than thirty five countries and viewed by millions of people, demonstrates the richness of American cultural heritage and serves as a powerful public diplomacy tool.

“We are so pleased to bring this important and engaging exhibit to Pima,” said Ambassador Stuart Holliday, President and CEO of Meridian International Center. “This exhibit which has touched millions around the world, shows that diplomacy can exist in many forms. Cultural exhibits offer people a fun and novel way to engage with people of different cultures and learn about their interests, history, and heritage.”

“Not only is Jazz an exhilarating form of music, but it is also a living piece of our culture and history—nationally and locally in Tucson,” said Patricia Houston, Academic Dean at Pima’s Downtown Campus. “The Jam Session exhibit traces the musical art form through its cultural, artistic and even historical and political impact on the world and now we can connect it right back to Tucson and our own rich jazz traditions here. We are delighted to be able to offer this glimpse of history to our students and the local community.”

Jam Session chronicles the international tours of legendary jazz musicians selected by the U.S. Department of State 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 image of the United States at a time when Cold War tensions were at their height. It was perhaps the most successful public diplomacy program of our time.

The traveling photo exhibition of this famous tour continues to contribute to positive perceptions of the U.S. abroad. Next month, the exhibit will be in on display in Beijing, China’s prestigious National Centre for the Performing Arts. The opening of the three-week long exhibit will mark the formal launch of Meridian’s American-Chinese Cultural Initiative (ACCI).

The exhibit was curated by Dr. Curtis Sandberg, Meridian’s Senior 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.

The photos will be on display at the second-floor lobby of the CC Building at Downtown Campus, 1255 N. Stone Ave., from April 17 to May 25. The exhibit kicks off Tuesday, April 17 from 6 to 8 p.m. with a reception in the Amethyst Room at Downtown featuring light refreshments and the PCC Jazz Ensemble.

Downtown Campus
1255 N. Stone Ave.
CC Building, second floor lobby

When: April 17 - May 25, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. weekdays

Admission: Free


Founded in 1969, Pima Community College (PCC) serves more than 75,000 students annually and is the eighth largest community college in the United States. PCC offers degrees and certificates in more than 100 transfer and occupational programs on six conveniently located campuses and more than 180 teaching sites throughout Pima County. The College provides flexible course options, affordable tuition, and a wide array of support services. To learn more, visit or call (520) 206-4500.

About Meridian International Center:
Promoting global leadership through the exchange of ideas, people, and culture. Our mission is to create innovative exchange, education, cultural, and policy programs that advance three goals:

  • Strengthen U.S. engagement with the world through the power of exchange
  • Prepare public and private sector leaders for a complex global future
  • Provide a neutral forum for international collaboration across sectors

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