International Jazz Day is an International Day declared by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in 2011 “to highlight jazz and its diplomatic role of uniting people in all corners of the globe.” It is celebrated annually on April 30. The idea came from jazz pianist and UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Herbie Hancock. Jazz Day is chaired by Hancock and the UNESCO Director-General. The celebration is recognized on the calendars of both UNESCO and the United Nations.
The Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, an American NGO also chaired by Hancock, is the lead organizational partner for Jazz Day. The Institute coordinates activities in the UNESCO member states as well as the Global Host Celebration. Events in the Host City culminate in an All-Star Global Concert, which involves over two-dozen jazz musicians from around the world performing in or around an historical landmark.
The 2017 Jazz Day was hosted by Havana, Cuba. The Host Celebration included weeklong series of education and community outreach programs with Esperanza Spalding, Richard Bona, Melissa Aldana, Tarek Yamani, Antonio Hart, and Regina Carter. The All-Star Global Concert took place at the Gran Teatro de La Habana Alicia Alonso and included fifty-five musicians from Brazil, Cameroon, Chile, China, Cuba, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Lebanon, Mexico, Russia, South Korea, Tunisia, and the United States.
In October 2017, UNESCO announced that St. Petersburg, Russia and Sydney, Australia would be designated Host Cities for 2018 and 2019, respectively. The St. Petersburg celebration took place from April 28–30, 2018 and included education programs and the All-Star Concert at the Mariinsky Theatre Second Stage.
Nearly 200 countries participate in International Jazz Day every year. In addition to concerts and jam sessions, events include workshops, conferences, and community outreach. The official registry of worldwide events is hosted on jazzday.com where they are displayed and indexed alphabetically by country. Jazzday.com lists notable examples of events organized over the past six years:
A teacher in Tuscaloosa organized a workshop on how to use jazz to inspire leadership and innovation.
A venue in Bogotá, Colombia produced a day of public education programs including classes, concerts, and jam sessions.
In Yangon, Myanmar, organizers invited a jazz guitarist to give performances and educational workshops with local musicians.
A conservatory in Kathmandu, Nepal hosted local and traveling musicians for joint concerts, followed by an open jam session. The event was broadcast live on the radio.
A record producer in Tehran, Iran organized a series of concerts with local musicians at an historic cultural center.
A mobile jazz club in Alcoy, Spain attempted to set the record for largest jazz jam session in Spanish history, bringing together more than 100 musicians in Alcoy’s Plaza de Dins.
A planetarium in Ukraine hosted a jazz concert accompanied by a 3D video show.
The International Jazz Day website also collects jazz education materials. These include content from Jamey Aebersold Jazz, the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, Norwegian music technology firm oiid, the online STEAM curriculum Math, Science & Music, and the Universidad Veracruzana.
*Jazz and cultural expression*
UNESCO relates the celebration of International Jazz Day to the 2005 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, maintaining that Jazz Day “integrates culture in sustainable development frameworks”, “promotes human rights and fundamental freedoms”, and “protects and promote the diversity of cultural expressions.”
Inception and declaration
After his designation as a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for Intercultural Dialogue on July 22, 2011, Herbie Hancock announced his intention to create an International Day celebrating the diplomatic role of jazz. In November 2011, following a favorable recommendation by the 187th Executive Board, UNESCO’s General Conference proclaimed April 30 as International Jazz Day, recognizing jazz as “a means to develop and increase intercultural exchanges and understanding between cultures for the purpose of mutual comprehension and tolerance.” The date of April 30 was proposed to position International Jazz Day as the culmination of the Smithsonian Institution’s April Jazz Appreciation Month (JAM), though no formal connection exists between JAM and International Jazz Day.
The United Nations General Assembly formally recognized International Jazz Day on its official calendar in December 2012.