All About Jazz

Home » Articles » Interviews

Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

955

John Ferguson on American Voices: Musical Diplomacy

Franz A. Matzner By

Sign in to view read count
What is amazing is how easily traditional musicians all over the world take to [jazz]. Take to improvising together. It
That tour ended up being a tour to Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia, to the Baltic states which are now completely normal places to go, but at the time were just sealed off in so many ways from American culture, musicians, and cultural exchanges, and I found myself giving performances of people like William Bolcom and John Adams, George Gershwin, and Eubie Blake to audiences that had never heard the music live before, had never heard an American live before. We were like these exotic, amazing creatures that everyone had heard about all of their lives because we were the great enemy, but no one had ever had any contact with us. Audiences were like these blank slates, or dry sponges, and they were absorbing anything you could offer them. They were so curious about the outside world.

That got me to thinking about how, in the Soviet Union, Hungary, and Eastern Germany and so forth, [they] really needed what I had to offer as a specialist in American music. And two years later, in 1992, American Voices was born as a not-for-profit organization. We immediately started working with the American Information Service and the new embassies and consulates that were sprouting up all over Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.

AAJ: Did the idea to form an organization and formalize the process of musical exchange come as a bolt from the blue, or did it come in stages?

JF: It came in stages. The first stage was basically as a classical pianist, performing with the other singers and instrumentalists I worked with, to bring our programming to Eastern Europe. Then we started doing our jazz program, and in 1998 our geographical expansion began with a tour to the Middle East and the Gulf countries for the George Gershwin centennial, and that was a Gershwin, Broadway, classical program, and then in 2000 we started going to Africa and Asia.

AAJ: What was the biggest challenge in getting things off the ground?

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Related Articles

Read Randy Weston: The Spirit of Our Ancestors Interviews
Randy Weston: The Spirit of Our Ancestors
by Ludovico Granvassu
Published: September 7, 2018
Read Val Wilmer: Dues And Testimony Interviews
Val Wilmer: Dues And Testimony
by Ian Patterson
Published: September 5, 2018
Read Bob James: Piano Player Interviews
Bob James: Piano Player
by R.J. DeLuke
Published: September 3, 2018
Read Ben Wolfe: The Freedom to Create Interviews
Ben Wolfe: The Freedom to Create
by Stephen A. Smith
Published: September 1, 2018
Read Peter Epstein: Effortless Precision Interviews
Peter Epstein: Effortless Precision
by Stephen A. Smith
Published: September 1, 2018
Read Dan Shout: In With a Shout Interviews
Dan Shout: In With a Shout
by Seton Hawkins
Published: August 31, 2018
Read "Matsuli Music: The Fight Against Forgetting" Interviews Matsuli Music: The Fight Against Forgetting
by Seton Hawkins
Published: May 23, 2018
Read "Leonardo Pavkovic: Nothing is Ordinary" Interviews Leonardo Pavkovic: Nothing is Ordinary
by Chris M. Slawecki
Published: March 16, 2018
Read "Ron Korb: Pan-Global Flutist" Interviews Ron Korb: Pan-Global Flutist
by Rob Caldwell
Published: June 27, 2018
Read "Bokani Dyer: African Piano" Interviews Bokani Dyer: African Piano
by Seton Hawkins
Published: June 7, 2018
Read "Rufus Reid: Composer, Educator, Bassist, Gait Keeper… And Prophet" Interviews Rufus Reid: Composer, Educator, Bassist, Gait...
by David Hadley Ray
Published: October 12, 2017
Read "Peter Epstein: Effortless Precision" Interviews Peter Epstein: Effortless Precision
by Stephen A. Smith
Published: September 1, 2018