On April 30, 2014, the world came together to celebrate the 3rd annual International Jazz Day with live performances, conferences and discussions held in each of UNESCO’s 195 Member States.
The official Jazz Day celebration — held in Osaka, Japan, and attended by USUNESCO Chargé d’Affaires Beth Poisson — featured daytime educational activities at the Osaka School of Music and culminated in an evening concert attended by approximately 7,000 people and livestreamed via www.jazzday.com and www.unesco.org.
Jazz Day Osaka reaffirmed the overarching mission of Jazz Day, as well as its importance as a tool for cultural diplomacy. UNESCO’s focal point for Jazz Day, Assistant Director-General Hans D’Orville, called jazz “the quintessential soft power of the 21st century.” Herbie Hancock reminded attendees that Jazz Day was created to “promote peace…to help create a dialogue between peoples and empower young people in their role as agents for change.
Daytime activities in Osaka included workshops in dance, music and composition, as well as discussions on the links between jazz and human rights, women’s empowerment and peace. UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Herbie Hancock and UNESCO Artist for Peace Marcus Miller spoke of how jazz has allowed them to touch peoples and cultures across the world,. Dee Dee Bridgewater and Esperanza Spalding discussed the relationship between jazz and women; Ms. Bridgewater spoke of the impact of pioneers such as Billie Holiday and Nina Simone on the civil rights movement in the United States, and Ms. Spalding focused on her experience as a contemporary female jazz musician.
The evening concert in Osaka featured a number of U.S. artists, including Herbie Hancock; Marcus Miller; music legends Wayne Shorter, Dee Dee Bridgewater, and Dionne Warwick; and rising stars Esperanza Spalding and Gregory Porter. However, the concert had a decidedly global flavor thanks to international artists such as Terumasa Hino (Japan), Roberta Gambarini (Italy), Courtney Pine (United Kingdom), Oumou Sangaré (Mali), and Claudio Roditi (Brazil).
When asked about his vision for International Jazz Day, Hancock said that he hoped it “open up a path that goes beyond jazz to unite cultures.” “We don’t know where International Jazz Day will go in the long run,” he said, “but we do know that we are planting seeds.
Working closely with UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Herbie Hancock, USUNESCO proposed the establishment of International Day of Jazz at UNESCO in 2011. The Jazz Day resolution drew support from more than 30 co-sponsors and was adopted unanimously at UNESCO’s 187th Executive Board and 36th General Conference. Since its launch in April 2012, International Jazz Day has become one of UNESCO’s most successful cultural programs.