Guest Exhibit: Jazz Diplomacy

Guest Exhibit: Jazz Diplomacy 150 150

The National Museum of American Diplomacy featured the photography exhibit “Jam Session: America’s Jazz Ambassadors Embrace the World” in the upper level of the Pavilion from February 14th to May 31th, 2018. This guest exhibit chronicles the international tours of legendary jazz musicians who were selected by the Department of State to serve as roving cultural “ambassadors” from the 1950s to the 1970s. Drawn from collections around the United States, the photographs capture memorable moments and show jazz’s ability to bridge cultural and political differences.

“Jam Session”  portrays the journeys of music greats such as Dizzy Gillespie, Benny Goodman, Dave Brubeck, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Benny Carter, and Sarah Vaughan. These musicians shared their talents and interacted with enthusiastic audiences abroad in Eastern Europe, Latin America, South Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa. The tours helped promote a positive view of the United States when Cold War tensions were at their height.

This exhibition was created by Meridian International Center.  The U.S. Department of State commissioned six copies of it, and many U.S. embassies have sponsored the exhibit in venues around the world.  Content for the exhibit 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.