Music & Film Diplomacy at the State Department

May 4, 2018

The U.S. Department of State has long recognized the role of music in diplomacy, with its emphasis on free expression, improvisation, and democratic and collaborative teamwork. Sharing music is one of the best ways to find common ground with people on an exchange program. The appeal of music is universal.

From the mid-1950s and continuing through the 1970s, many American jazz greats traveled the globe as music envoys under the sponsorship of the U.S. Department of State. Musicians such as Louis Armstrong, Dave Brubeck, Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, and Woody Herman performed on tours supported by the U.S. Government. To better understand the history of jazz diplomacy within the context of the Cold War and the Civil Rights movement, visit the PBS website to view the new documentary, The Jazz Ambassadors, premiering tonight.

Cultural Diplomacy Today

The State Department still sends musicians overseas as cultural ambassadors today, but instead of focusing on jazz it also includes artists from other genres of American music such as hip-hop, gospel, bluegrass, and zydeco. The flagship musical exchange is American Music Abroad, which has sent more than 50 bands to over 100 countries since 2011. American Music Abroad programs focus on younger and underserved audiences in countries where people have few opportunities to meet American performers. To learn more about American Music Abroad and see exciting content from our alumni, visit http://amvoices.org/ama/.

Other music programs like OneBeat and Next Level introduce musicians, beat makers, DJs, and more to diverse audiences and address U.S. foreign policy issues like women’s and youth empowerment. Next Level sends American artists overseas to lead workshops, community performances, and master classes, while OneBeat brings together emerging musical leaders from around the world to develop a global network of civically engaged music initiatives. Find out more at https://1beat.org/ and http://nextlevel-usa.org/.

We also lead film programs, such as American Film Showcase, which annually brings award-winning contemporary American documentaries and feature films, filmmakers, and film experts to audiences in more than 30 countries. The films connect people to each other, so they can have dialogues about underlying global and universal issues that are illustrated through film. To learn more about American Film Showcase and upcoming programs, visit http://americanfilmshowcase.com/.

Check out the full list of our exchange programs and initiatives here: https://eca.state.gov/programs-and-initiatives