Travelling the “Rhythm Road”: Jazz Ambassadorship in the Twenty-First Century
Finally, the "back at the ranch" question comes up. What, if any, manifestations of The Rhythm Road occur stateside? For one thing, Rhythm Road musicians perform free concerts in the United States. Jazz at Lincoln Center hosts the ensembles at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola and at Frederick P. Rose Hall, its New York City home. In Washington, D.C., the concerts are presented by National Geographic Live! at the Grosvenor Auditorium.
In addition, there is considerable debriefing and discussion on home turf. Meetings are held where all the administrators and musicians get together to share experiences and talk about what worked and didn't work. Says John, "We're always focusing on how to make what we do better. How best to make an impact in those countries is our emphasis. We work on developing our educational sessions. We get four mentors who have been on the Rhythm Road tours in the past, and when the musicians are better equipped in this way, they can make more of an impact during their travels. The breadth of locations and music is already built into the program, so the focus is how to insure quality at every turn."
In conversation with AAJ, Tim Horner offered a suggestion which could add something valuable to The Rhythm Road mission. "I've asked them to consider doing a week-and-a-half tour of all the musicians to places in America. We'll show America what we're doing and what their tax dollars are doing." A "show and tell" demo of the program to the "tax-payers" could help perpetuate and expand The Rhythm Road abroad and encourage similar ventures. But above and beyond that, America has its own "underdeveloped" and poverty stricken rural areas and urban ghettos that desperately need the warmth and inspiration that these musicians can bring them. Moreover, jazz itself is crying for a renaissance in the U.S. So why not have a domestic version of The Rhythm Road? For this component, the State Department, which handles foreign affairs, could transfer part of the reigns to some other government agency and local communities. It would be a way to bring the varied rewards and insights of The Rhythm Road home to our own people. In addition, as part of such a domestic version of "The Rhythm Road," musicians from other countries could be brought here to play for us Americans. As the saying goes, "What goes around, comes around."
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