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American Voices Presents Black History Month Concert in Baghdad
Published February 13, 2007

American Voices has announced details of their upcoming Black History Month concert of ragtime, jazz, and more in Baghdad, Iraq on February 17.

This concert, sponsored by the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, will feature Spirituals, Ragtime, Jazz and selections from Broadway. The concert will involve an American singer/dancer and pianist performing alongside Iraqi performing artists and a poet's circle around the theme of African-American culture with a focus on poet James Weldon Johnson. Music by Scott Joplin, Eubie Blake, George Gershwin, Duke Ellington, William Bolcom, Jerome Kern, Zez Confrey, Lieber and Stoller and other American composers will be presented.

Featured performers will be vocalist, dancer, choreographer and director Michael Parks Masterson and pianist and American Voices Executive Director John Ferguson, working alongside the orchestra.

An additional post-concert segment of the project will highlight a series of workshops with performances of American orchestral music, including works by Copland, Bernstein, and Gershwin and instruction for dancers in Broadway and jazz dance styles.

This will be the first U.S. Embassy sponsored concert of its kind in Iraq since the beginning of the current conflict. Despite the concert’s location in the Green Zone of Baghdad, the concert will aim to reach a broader Iraqi audience through television rebroadcast of the performance nationwide.

This cultural diplomacy project will enable Iraqis to interact with Americans not involved in the military or reconstruction thereby encouraging a broader viewpoint and understanding of America and American culture. This is also part of a larger effort to get cultural programming into more stabilized regions of the country with possible future projects in the Kurdistan Region.

American Voices was founded in 1992 to further appreciation and understanding of American music and culture, especially in developing countries or those lacking opportunities for cultural exchange and dialogue with the United States. It was also founded in response to new opportunities for cultural dialogue between the United States and the newly independent countries of the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. Since then, Houston-based American Voices has evolved into the only American musical organization committed to interactive performances and education in the Middle Eastern and Central Asian countries currently so prominent in world affairs: Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Pakistan, Syria, Lebanon, Kuwait and Egypt among many others.