US Government changes its tune towards foreign musicians

US Government changes its tune towards foreign musicians


norman lebrecht

December 12, 2011

After years of placing obstacles in the path of incoming entertainers, the State Department is offering a sprig of mistletoe to the world’s musicians.

Partnering with New York’s Bang on a Can group, the Dept has launched a OneBeat, one-month exchange programme for young musicians, slipped under the wire in the guise of ‘smart diplomacy’. It’s a small gesture, no more than that, but it might be the harbinger of a change in attitude. At least there is an awareness on Hillary Clinton’s part that the US needs to repair its relations with the world’s musicians. Release follows.


For Immediate Release                                                                                                                                                                              December 9, 2011



Bringing the World’s Music to Main Street America,

U.S. Department of State Announces “OneBeat”


Bringing musicians from around the world to communities across America, the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs announced OneBeat today, an initiative that will bring up to 50 international musicians between the ages of 19-35 to the United States for a month-long exchange.  OneBeat musicians will connect with Americans musicians and audiences, especially underserved youth, through people-to-people diplomacy and social engagement projects.  It is slated to kick-off in the United States in September of 2012.


OneBeat builds on Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s vision of “smart power” diplomacy. It embraces the use of a full range of diplomatic tools, including music, to bring people, especially youth, together for greater understanding.


Partnering with Bang on a Can’s Found Sound Nation, the OneBeat musicians will perform in collaborative ensembles that improvise across genres, reinvent traditional tunes, compose original work, record in the state-of-the-art OneBeat mobile studio, and prepare for performances and educational workshops.  The groups will then tour in the United States.  During the tour, they will perform the music they developed during the exchange, work with local musicians, and conduct social outreach workshops with local youth.


Bang on a Can’s Found Sound Nation is an eclectic group of artists who have a strong sense of social engagement. Working with people across the globe, from schools to prisons, from young to old, and partnering with local youth, social organizations, music festivals, and artists across all disciplines, Found Sound Nation creates a space that transcends geographic, linguistic, and political borders. The work of Found Sound Nation uses the expressive power of music and audio production to give voice to underserved communities, unlock the creative potential of youth, and build bridges between communities separated by cultures, economic disparities, and geography.


The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs promotes mutual understanding between the United States and other countries through a wide range of academic, cultural, private sector, professional, and sports exchange programs. The Bureau’s s cultural exchanges support U.S. foreign policy, foster America’s artistic excellence, and demonstrate America’s respect and appreciation for other cultures and traditions. For more information, visit


Media contact: Talley Sergent, U.S. Department of State,

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  • Bang-On-Can hosts a yearly, marathon concert series in the World Financial Center, which is home to the offices of Merrill Lynch, RBC Capital Markets, Nomura Group, the Wall Street Journal, American Express, Dow Jones and others. This is, no doubt, one more example of BoaC’s strong sense of social engagement and outreach mentioned in the blurb.

    The blurb also notes that BoaC’s involvement with the project “OneBeat” will “create a space that transcends geographic, linguistic, and political borders,” and that it will “build bridges between communities separated by cultures, economic disparities, and geography.” Who would have thought that the notable ideals of “transcending geographic, linguistic, and political borders,” would come together in art, government, and financial conglomerates?

    With its keen aesthetic insights, BoaC has also done a great deal to enhance the legitimacy of the global, American pop music industry by suggesting that the borders between it and so-called high art should be largely erased. We all know how selflessly the American mass media industry has worked against such borders, aesthetic and otherwise. It can be little wonder that the remarkable ideals and “social outreach” of BoaC, the US Government, the global financial community have come together in the service of art and the world community.