Monday, February 27, 2012

American Music, Coast to Coast

I have been out of bloggy touch this week because I have been on the road with the auditions for the American Music Abroad program.  As I have previously noted, the American Music Abroad program is the flagship cultural diplomacy program of the US State Department, which my organization American Voices administers.  The program is the evolution of the famous Jazz Ambassadors program.

We had received nearly 300 applications for the program, a record and more than double the previous year, of which the panel of judges selected approximately 40 ensembles for live auditions.  This week we held the live auditions in New York, St. Louis and San Francisco.  The ensembles that were invited to the live auditions were, frankly, amazing and represent the broad spectrum of the canon of American music.  Over the week we heard auditions from groups representing Jazz, Hip Hop, Bluegrass, Hawaiian, Western, Cajun, Zydeco, Blues, and even genres as diverse as Indo-Appalachian blue grass.   The process of live auditions was an absolute pleasure as we heard song selections and educational programs from the talented troupes.  One of the best parts of the audition process was listening to the folk songs selected by the groups, who put their own stamps on works such as Azeri folk songs or Guantanamera.   Imagine a Hawaiian version of Guantanamera, or a jazz version.  It was pretty impressive.

On the whole, it was a busy week but lots of fun to work with such talented musicians.  Approximately 10 groups will be sent out as music ambassadors to teach, perform and jam with local musicians in some 40-50 countries worldwide.  This is public and cultural diplomacy at its finest.  Lucky me, I will get to accompany a few tours.

So good news with AV, but bad news with AU.  I had applied for the doctoral program at American University, at the IR program of the School of International Service.  Unfortunately, I found out today I did not get in to the program.  Disappointing, but a reminder that nothing is ever taken for granted.  Similarly, they got a record number of applicants for a limited number of spaces.  Last year they got 200 applications for 10 spaces, and I imagine they got more apps this year.  So tougher odds than AMA.  I was on the bubble but didn't find my way in to the final dance.  I know I was up in the consideration process, but it did not bear out in my favor.

I have a mix of emotions about the whole thing.  I would have had a hard time walking away from the AV/AMA in the middle of something on which I I have worked really hard.  I have also had some misgivings about spending many more years to come in DC.  But with that said, I long to return to academia and thought the program would have been a good fit for me. It is proving tricky to find a PD PhD.  This was an IR program, and perhaps my PD focus didn't quite fit it as well as I had thought.  So it goes, apparently it was not part of my dharma.

But I was next to my bosses when the news came, and they were rather pleased in a fashion.  My boss John remarked that their bribe had worked, and apparently when I went out to get a drink, they did a happy dance.  It is nice to know that I have a good job that appreciates my services and will let me continue to practice PD in the field and travel long and far.  Silver lining, if there is any.  


Yelena Osipova said...

Aw, Paul, you know it is NEVER late for PhD, don't you? With so much more experience over the coming months, you can and SHOULD try applying again! AU is a great place for PD PhD, but it's not the *ONLY* one. So yeah, no need to feel down and certainly, to "give up". The academe is there, while exciting opportunities are not always. SO... :)

Paul Rockower said...

ty, Yelena :)