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Channel One News: August 13, 2013

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In the summer of 2013, the first ever National Youth Orchestra traveled to London, Moscow and St. Petersburg, Russia. The students were practicing cultural diplomacy. By sharing art and ideas, cultural diplomacy promotes peace and understanding throughout the world.

During the Cold War of the 1950s and 60s, America’s reputation suffered as Soviet propaganda claimed that the US was “culturally barbaric”. The State Department set out to change America’s image with the Jazz Ambassador program. Jazz artists, including Dizzy Gillespie, Louis Armstrong and Benny Goodman, drew huge crowds as they brought their American-style rhythm to Africa, Europe and Asia.

The Beatles became unintentional ambassadors during the Cold War with the release of “Back in the U.S.S.R.” This first song on the Beatles’ White Album was written to humanize young people living behind the Iron Curtain. In 1988, Paul McCartney released Choba B CCCP, the Russian translation of “Back in the U.S.S.R.” His intention was to “extend the hand of peace and friendship”. The half-a-million copies he released sold out rapidly.

In 1985, famous musicians came together in two big ways for famine-stricken Ethiopia. First, famous musicians came together to record “We Are the World,” which topped the charts worldwide. Then, Live Aid concerts held both in London and in Pennsylvania had millions of TV viewers and raised more than $100 million for the people of Ethiopia.

Conductor and pianist Daniel Barenboim led a Peace Concert near Korea’s neutral Demilitarized Zone in August 2011. Marking six decades since the end of the Korean War, the concert sought to promote understanding and ease escalating tensions between North and South Korea.

The National Youth Orchestra members have traveled the world just as other cultural diplomats before them. Together they demonstrate how one can promote peace with the help of a musical instrument.

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