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Ambassador Statements

Entrepreneurship through the Performing Arts Concert

February 27, 2012, 7:00 PM

Ambassador Jackson’s Remarks

Ministers, Ambassadors and other members of the Diplomatic Corps, ladies and gentlemen, colleagues and friends,


Fortunately for all of us, I will not be singing tonight, but I am happy to speak about the performance!  This evening we celebrate one of life’s greatest treasures… music.   It is an art form deeply rooted in every culture.  For centuries, it has provided talented artists such as Manu Dibango, Anne Marie Ndzie, Duke Ellington, and the late Whitney Houston a place on the world’s stage.  More than just a series of notes and rhythm, music is a means to heal, to stir emotion, to inspire, and to unite.  Plato, the Greek philosopher, once stated, “Music is a moral law.  It gives soul to the universe, wings to the wind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.”

My wife, Babs, and I have been lovers of music and art for as long as we can remember.  One of our shared joys about music is that, regardless of your circumstances, it has the power to lift your mood and transport you to another place.   It provides listeners a space in which certain memories are revealed, emotions are revisited, and experiences are relived.  In addition to the comfort and the solace it offers, music is also a force for economic and social development.  Around the world music has enriched economies.  One of Africa’s best examples is Ghana.  University of Ghana Professor John Collins estimates that “Ten percent of the foreign exchange spent in Ghana is connected with the entertainment sector, specifically music.”  Ghana’s one hundred or so recording studios employ technicians, musicians, instrument repair men and women, producers, and manufacturers all while luring tourists with its folkloric and traditional sounds.

Like many of you, the U.S. Embassy understands that in order to fully appreciate music, we must support it and its creators.  Tonight we are proud to introduce the first concert of The Entrepreneurship Through the Performing Arts Tour.  After this evening’s performance, our two American musicians will travel to the Northwest and Littoral Regions, holding concerts and teaching emerging professionals the business side of the music industry.  This includes marketing, voice technique, amplification, and sound.  It is my hope that this tour will promote the expansion of music education in schools, increase training programs for music entrepreneurs, and advance protection of intellectual property rights for all artists.

In an effort to support art in all of its forms, at this time I would like to recognize two talented painters.  Will Elisee Meboh and Jean Kalvin Voumdi please stand.  Both artists are the creative geniuses behind the 11 paintings on display this evening.  Their work, sponsored by the African Reconnection Project, represents the shared link between the United States and Cameroon.  We are honored to share their vision, and applaud them for their efforts to preserve and promote culture through the arts.

Last year, many of you joined us as we showcased American Blues.  This evening we celebrate its cousin, American Jazz.  This genre was born out of a mix of African and European traditions.  Its style originated in the twentieth century in African American communities in the southern United States.  Over the years, Jazz has spread across the world giving rise to many distinctive styles such as Urban Jazz, Smooth Jazz, and Swing Jazz.

Tonight, we are especially lucky to host two musicians who have been playing Swing Jazz for over 20 years.  From night clubs in Chicago and lounges in Paris to villages in Djibouti and Togo, vocalist Keri Chryst and guitarist Jeff Hoffman are true international performers.  Ms. Chryst, often referred to as a musician’s singer, has a Masters degree in Jazz Pedagogy.  She pioneered the Jazz Vocal Program at the American School of Modern Music in Paris and authored a complete curriculum of workshops to help students develop into fully rounded musicians.  Keri and Jeff will be accompanied by the larger sound of the talented group called Xik’us from Cameroon.  As we listen to the melodies of Swing Jazz, I only have one request, that you allow the music to move you!  Feel free to clap, dance, and if you know the words, sing along. 

And with that I conclude with a quote from President Ronald Reagan, “Life is one grand, sweet song, so start the music.” 

Without further ado, please join me in welcoming the opening act, our very own Embassy employees, Glen Fortinberry and Jean Pierre Ghonda followed by Keri and Jeff.