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United States Information Agency. Artistic Ambassador Program. DLC

 
 

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Biographical History

The United States Information Agency was established by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in August 1953 and was active until October 1, 1999. Its basic mandates were the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948 and the Fulbright-Hays Act of 1961. The Agency's stated mission was "to understand, inform, and influence foreign publics in promotion of the U.S. national interest, and to broaden the dialogue between Americans and U.S. institutions, and their counterparts abroad."

One aspect of this strategy involved the identification, promotion, and financial support of young, virtuoso American performers as "ambassadors" of international understanding and goodwill. Those who had yet to establish themselves as "big-time" artists were of primary interest. Following the success of a 1982 pilot program that sent pianist Robert Noland to tour France and Germany, USIA director Charles Z. Wick formally launched the Artistic Ambassador Program in April 1983 under the leadership of John Robilette and named pianist Arthur Greene the second Artistic Ambassador.

In 1984, four additional pianists were recruited to represent USIA: Michael Caldwell, Dean Kramer, Steve Warzycki, and Nancy Weems. The program continued to expand rapidly, and by the following year, eleven pianists had traveled to 38 countries, including the Soviet Union and China. By 1986 and 1987 respectively, the performance programs had also incorporated violin-piano duos and violoncello-piano duos. Touring efforts continued until the termination of the Program in 1989.

In addition to its support of performers, the Program sought commissioned works from eminent American composers, including Norman Dello Joio, Morton Gould, George Rochberg, and others. This marked one of the first dedicated efforts by the federal government to commission musical works for the purpose of promoting American culture abroad. Between 1983 and 1987, a total of 13 works were commissioned by the Program.

From the finding aid for USIA Artistic Ambassador Program Musical Commissions 1973-1988 (bulk 1983-1987) ( Music Division Library of Congress)

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