Jam Session: America’s Jazz Ambassadors Embrace the World

Jam Session: America's Jazz Ambassadors Embrace the WorldJam Session—Meridian’s most popular exhibition to date—chronicled the international tours of legendary jazz musicians who were selected by the U.S. State Department to serve as roving cultural “ambassadors” from the 1950s through the 1970s. More than 100 compelling images portrayed 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 regions including the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe as well as the Middle East and North Africa playing their world-famous music and interacted with people abroad to promote a positive view of the United States when Cold War tensions were at their height.

This exhibition was curated by Dr. Curtis Sandberg, former Meridian Vice President for the Arts, and 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. Major sponsorship was provided by Anheuser-Busch Foundation, Verizon Wireless, The Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation, Mr. and Mrs. Michael Sonnenreich, Ms. Meryl Chertoff, and Mr. Raymond Garcia, and Dr. Fruzsina M. Harsanyi.

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