The story of jazz is one of musical fusion and cross-pollination, of forced and of voluntary emigrations and immigrations, and represents in many ways the essence of the American experience. Jazz began in the American South – the spirituals and field hollers of African-Americans born into slavery became the ragtime, blues and early jazz associated with New Orleans. In the beginning, Africa met Western Europe along the banks of the Mississippi. Later, in the New York City of the 1920’s and 1930’s, the American South would meet Russia in Manhattan as jazz and African-American music in general would undergo a fortuitous meeting with Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. From this dynamic New York melting pot, Broadway and the great American popular song tradition were born as were many of the jazz standards of today by Gershwin, Porter and Kern. American Voices conducts the educational concert program Jazz from J to Z to teach the history and essence of this American art form to audiences around the globe. Jazz from J to Z shares the fascinating story of how jazz emerged in the American South from African-American musical traditions including spirituals, ragtime, blues and Dixieland. Recent Jazz from J to Z programs have been conducted in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.
Jazz music has long served as bridge for cultural diplomacy, beginning during the Cold War with the legendary Jazz Ambassadors program. American Voices has continued the legacy of jazz as a medium for cultural exchange. The American Voices Jazz Bridges program brings together outstanding jazz musicians from the United States to play with local jazz, traditional and popular musicians in countries around the world. The Jazz Bridges program helps fuse different musical styles, instruments and talents to create an innovative collaboration program. Such performances and programs have taken place in Burma, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Afghanistan. The Jazz from J to Z education program plays a central role in American Voices’ educational programming. Jazz workshops remain a core part of the YES Academy program, and aspiring jazz musicians in countries such as Thailand, Iraq and Lebanon have all gained training in the Jazz from J to Z program.