In November 2011, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) officially designated April 30 as International Jazz Day in order to highlight jazz and its diplomatic role of uniting people in all corners of the globe. International Jazz Day is chaired and led by Irina Bokova, UNESCO Director General, and legendary jazz pianist and composer Herbie Hancock, who serves as a UNESCO Ambassador for Intercultural Dialogue and Chairman of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz. The Institute is the lead nonprofit organization charged with planning, promoting and producing this annual celebration, which began in 2012.
International Jazz Day brings together communities, schools, artists, historians, academics, and jazz enthusiasts all over the world to celebrate and learn about jazz and its roots, future and impact; raise awareness of the need for intercultural dialogue and mutual understanding; and reinforce international cooperation and communication. Each year on April 30, this international art form is recognized for promoting peace, dialogue among cultures, diversity, and respect for human rights and human dignity, eradicating discrimination, promoting freedom of expression, fostering gender equality, and reinforcing the role of youth for social change. International Jazz Day is the culmination of Jazz Appreciation Month which draws public attention to jazz and its extraordinary heritage in April.
UNESCO and United Nations missions, U.S. embassies and government outposts around the world hosted special events for the first annual International Jazz Day on April 30, 2012 to honor this revered musical art form. Universities, libraries, schools, community centers, performing arts venues and arts organizations of all disciplines around the world marked the day through concerts, education programs, seminars, lectures, book readings, public jam sessions, master classes, photo exhibitions, dance recitals, film and documentary screenings, theater presentations and spoken word performances. More than one billion people around the world were reached through 2012 International Jazz Day programs and media coverage.
In 2012, UNESCO and the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz presented three high-profile programs: a daylong celebration in Paris at UNESCO world headquarters; a sunrise concert in New Orleans’ Congo Square, the birthplace of jazz; and a sunset concert at the United Nations General Assembly Hall in New York City. Among the world-renowned artists that participated were John Beasley, Tony Bennett, George Benson, Terence Blanchard, Richard Bona (Cameroon), Dee Dee Bridgewater, Candido, Teri Lyne Carrington, Ron Carter, Robert Cray, Jack DeJohnette, George Duke, Sheila E., Herbie Hancock, Antonio Hart, Jimmy Heath, Hiromi (Japan), Zakir Hussain (India), Chaka Khan, Angelique Kidjo (Benin), Lang Lang (China), Joe Lovano, Romero Lubambo (Brazil), Shankar Mahadevan (India), Ellis Marsalis, Wynton Marsalis, Hugh Masekela (South Africa), Christian McBride, Marcus Miller, Danilo Pérez (Panama), Wayne Shorter, Esperanza Spalding, Treme Brass Band and Stevie Wonder. Hosts included Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman and Quincy Jones.
Istanbul, Turkey has been named the 2013 Global Host City for International Jazz Day. The city will host a daylong series of jazz events including workshops and seminars, panels and roundtable discussions, film screenings, student master classes led by prominent musicians and educators, and a major evening performance that will be broadcast on public television stations worldwide. The Institute and UNESCO will continue their partnership to encourage schools, universities, libraries, arts organizations, community centers and other entities in UNESCO’s 195 member states to host jazz concerts and educational programs on International Jazz Day in order to reach people of all ages and backgrounds.