THE IMPORTANCE OF MUSIC DIPLOMACY- JEROME BARRY, DIRECTOR, THE EMBASSY SERIES
THE IMPORTANCE OF MUSICAL DIPLOMACY
BY JEROME BARRY, DIRECTOR, THE EMBASSY SERIES
When I embarked upon creating The Embassy Series over 17 years ago with my wife, Lisette, little did I realize how much more important our endeavors would be in 2010 and into the future. As a performing artist and laureate in languages, and having sung as a professional in many countries, living abroad for 10 years, I was well aware that America was an important stabilizing influence virtually all over the world; yet with all our great talent, diversity and creativity, very often the Arts took a back seat to science, practical studies and most other fields of endeavor. After hundreds of performances in Europe and Asia, I decided that perhaps this was the time to return to my native land.
By some quirk of fortune, I found myself and my family in Washington, DC in 1974. There my family prospered, although both of my children were born abroad, and life with its creature comforts held sway. I started to perform at embassies, in fact, the very first year, as well as many performances in venues such as The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, The National Gallery of Art, and many others. In the meantime, I kept my contacts with Europe and Asia and frequently travelled there to perform. Life was wonderful in many ways.
In 1981, somewhat unhappy with my artistic life, I embarked upon a venture, co-founding a chamber music group with 8 members. There I used my talents as an impresario and performer to create a unique group, dedicated to performing little known works of American and foreign composers. It was a success, but Washington, being a basically political city, especially then, was not as responsive as would be necessary for long term survival. The newspapers were full of our exploits and achievements, but somehow, I needed something new, something more connected to the environment we were living in.
That is when it occurred to me and my wife that Washington, with its many embassies, would be a haven for cultural diversity, just as Washington was becoming, and at a very fast rate. A world capital as well as a national capital, Washington DC boasts more than 175 foreign embassies, residences, chanceries, and diplomatic missions. This proposal is aimed at utilizing these embassies for special programs. We founded The Embassy Series, dedicated to bringing people of all nations together, relishing the diversity that is the hallmark of Washington and trying to express this through music. The series started with 6 concerts per year at 4 embassies and burgeoned to 42 per year in 20 different embassies and ambassadors’ residences. We have performed in a total of 50 embassies, worked with 200 ambassadors and hundreds of other diplomats and have invited more than 800 American and International artists, performing music of their country and ours.
Little did we know at that time that out of this modest beginning, engendered by our passion and love for music and outreach, that musical diplomacy would be born. There is ping pong diplomacy, détente, perestroika, why not musical diplomacy? And what better place? Washington is the hub of the world, politically and diplomatically, with more embassies than any other city in the world, and the only place in the United States with embassies. Why not create a symbiosis: great artists, great music, food of that country, featured in after-concert receptions in all of our many events, interaction with diplomats of that country and socializing with people that appreciate fine music and camaraderie? Out of this came our basic mission: “Uniting people through musical diplomacy.”
The world needs musical diplomacy. Look at the New York Philharmonic travelling to Pyongyang. People actually stood at attention for our national anthem. Many exciting possibilities exist to promote American ideals and values, in fact our highest ideals and values, through musical diplomacy.
I am proud to say that we performed the first events at virtually all the Eastern European embassies after the demise of the Soviet Union. We are indeed the only Arts group in the United States to have performed at the Cuban Interests Section. Thisyear, we will present programs in the embassies of China, Iraq, Austria, Germany, Lithuania, Kazakhstan, Austria, Belgium, Iceland, Armenia, Hungary, Poland, Australia and many others. Please join us in this most important endeavor. You will hear great music, enjoy great food and will be privileged to partake of musical diplomacy, a non-confrontational way to explore other people’s culture and way of expression. Join the thousands of other people who have broadened their cultural horizons, experiencing the new, the novel and the creative. We look forward to greeting you and getting to know you.
America is a great democracy and with that, it is incumbent upon us to better understand other nations and to cooperate with them to make this a better place for all cultures to thrive in.