Recording Academy, State Department Launch ‘Global Music Diplomacy Initiative,’ Issue First ‘Peace Through Music Award’

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Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason Jr. speaking at the ‘Global Music Diplomacy Initiative’ launch event, where he named Quincy Jones the inaugural recipient of the ‘Peace Through Music Award.’ Photo Credit: Recording Academy

About nine months after the namesake Peace Through Music Diplomacy Act became law, the Recording Academy and the State Department have launched a program called the “Global Music Diplomacy Initiative” and presented Quincy Jones with the first-ever “Peace Through Music Award.”

The Recording Academy reached out to Digital Music News with word of the new music-diplomacy program and award, both of which were unveiled during a State Department event yesterday evening. Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason Jr., YouTube global head of music Lyor Cohen, and JFK Center for the Performing Arts chairman David Rubenstein were on hand for the event, as were, of course, a number of government officials and musicians.

“We’ve had a few dignitaries come through this building,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said during the happening, “but it is a special treat to have so many members of music royalty here tonight. Dave Grohl. Herbie Hancock. Rakeem. Denyce Graves. And my dear friend Aimee Mann.

“We are also joined by so many other outstanding artists who are shaping the music industry today. Gayle is in the house. Armani White is in the house. Jamie Barton is in the house. Myles Frost. And Mickey Guyton is in the house tonight too.”

According to the State Department’s description, the Global Music Diplomacy Initiative, in capitalizing upon public-private partnerships with non-profits and businesses, will look “to elevate music as a diplomatic tool to promote peace and democracy” on the world stage.

Components of the initiative include a State Department-Recording Academy tie-up, the American Music Mentorship Program, that will work to afford “international mid-career music industry professionals, which may include musical artists,” stateside “mentorship and networking opportunities.”

Meanwhile, the Department is poised to “incorporate music into its existing $40 million investment in English-language learning worldwide,” per the official release provided to media.

“The State Department is formally incorporating music into the English-language classes that we offer around the world. … We’re going to include American songs and lyrics in the curriculum. We’ll share our diverse culture. We’ll help students improve their English fluency,” elaborated the secretary of state, who also performed during the event.

Lastly, in terms of the specifics of the Global Music Diplomacy Initiative, the aforementioned Center for the Performing Arts is expected to collaborate with the Fullbright Program on “a new fellowship opportunity for foreign scholars.” An initial “award competition” is scheduled to be announced this autumn, with the Kennedy Center preparing to host the winner during the 2024-25 academic year.

Shifting past these details (as well as a number of planned international performances), Harvey Mason Jr. took the stage to give the first Peace Through Music Award to 90-year-old Quincy Jones.

“It’s my honor to announce the establishment of the Peace Through Music Award,” said the Recording Academy head Mason Jr. “Usually, we celebrate through our Grammy Awards. But this very special award recognizes and honors an American music industry professional, artist, or group that has played an invaluable role in cross-cultural exchanges and whose music and work advance peace and mutual understanding around the globe.

“While there are many deserving Americans of this award, one person stood out as the perfect inaugural recipient. This esteemed individual served as music director and trumpeter for jazz ambassador Dizzy Gillespie during his overseas tours in the 1960s,” Mason Jr. relayed before diving into Jones’ more recent career accomplishments.

“His work, his actions continue to advance peace through music, and I am sure they will for generations to come. It’s my true honor to recognize my friend and mentor, Mr. Quincy Jones, as the first-ever recipient of what will now and into the future be known as the ‘Quincy Jones Peace Through Music Award.’

“While Quincy could not join us tonight, it is my sincere honor to welcome his daughter, Rashida Jones, via video to accept this award on his behalf,” communicated Mason Jr., proceeding to play the prerecorded clip and, upon its conclusion, introduce David Rubenstein.