Alongside funding for military jets and naval warships, the new $857.9 billion US defense spending bill includes a program to fund musical exchanges around the globe. Dubbed the PEACE Through Music Diplomacy Act, the legislation funds US State Department cultural exchange projects that encourage artistic collaboration across borders.
Administered by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, the program will fund musical curricula focused on conflict resolution and foreign exchange programs for young musicians across the globe. Harvey Mason Jr., a well-known R&B producer who has worked with stars such as Michael Jackson and Beyonce, will assist with the rollout.
The bill was sponsored by House member Michael McCaul, a Texas Republican, and had bipartisan support.
There is precedent for successful musical diplomacy. In the 1950s, the US government sent jazz legends Louis Armstrong and Dizzy Gillespie to the Soviet Union to foster cross-cultural understanding. In 1985, the British pop group Wham! played a series of concerts in Beijing and Guangzhou, becoming the first-ever western pop group to play in mainland China. After George Michael’s death in 2016, Chinese state media honored the pop singer, calling the former Wham! member’s original visit a “sensation.”
“America’s creative industries spread our values—freedom, liberty, justice, and hope—throughout the world. I’m proud this bipartisan legislation will become law so we can promote America’s music industries and all the ideals we share and treasure.” —Senator Thom Tillis, a Republican from North Carolina, in a statement announcing his support for the legislation. In 2016, Tillis released a Spotify playlist featuring his favorite songs, including tunes from Death Cab for Cutie and Van Morrison.