The U.S. Department of State presented the U.S. Global Music Ambassadors, an initiative in partnership with Google and YouTube, in the Treaty Room at the State Department on June 24. Mezzo-soprano opera singer Denyce Graves, composer Justin Tranter, rapper Chuck D, Lyor Cohen, global head of music for Google and YouTube, U.S, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, country singer Lainey Wilson, composer/producer/singer BRELAND, blues singer Grace Bowers and rapper Armani White were present for the event. (Jacques Benovil/The Washington Informer)
The U.S. Department of State presented the U.S. Global Music Ambassadors, an initiative in partnership with Google and YouTube, in the Treaty Room at the State Department on June 24. Mezzo-soprano opera singer Denyce Graves, composer Justin Tranter, rapper Chuck D, Lyor Cohen, global head of music for Google and YouTube, U.S, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, country singer Lainey Wilson, composer/producer/singer BRELAND, blues singer Grace Bowers and rapper Armani White were present for the event. (Jacques Benovil/The Washington Informer)

U.S. diplomacy extends beyond negotiating with world leaders and also encompasses cultural exchanges, where American entertainers visit other countries to strengthen relationships. In the to introduce the U.S. Global Music Ambassadors. 

The ambassadors include Chuck D, Grace Bowers, BRELAND, Kane Brown, Herbie Hancock, Denyce Graves, Jelly Roll, Teddy Swims, Justin Tranter, Armani White, and Lainey Wilson. These music artists represent rap, blues, jazz, country, pop, classical, and soul music

“This is truly an extraordinary assemblage of talent,” said Blinken. “Music has a unique power in diplomacy, to communicate, to connect, to express who we are, and where we come from.” 

Along with Blinken introducing the music ambassadors, he announced a new partnership with YouTube, and said , immediately wanted to explore how his company could be involved after hearing about the program last fall.

A Thrill of a Lifetime for Musical Ambassadors

American musicians began traveling to other countries for U.S. State Department cultural outreach nearly 80 years ago and with the musical ambassadors such initiatives are continuing. 

Four of the U.S. State Department’s new U.S. Global Music Ambassadors were announced recently during a presentation in the Treaty Room at the State Department. Lainey Wilson, composer, producer and singer BRELAND, blues singer Grace Bowers and rapper Armani White. (Jacques Benovil/The Washington Informer)
Four of the U.S. State Department’s new U.S. Global Music Ambassadors were announced recently during a presentation in the Treaty Room at the State Department. Lainey Wilson, composer, producer and singer BRELAND, blues singer Grace Bowers and rapper Armani White. (Jacques Benovil/The Washington Informer)

Often referenced, is Louis Armstrong traveling to Ghana and finding a kinship with the people he met and their work towards liberation. Leonard Berstein and the New York Philharmonic traveled to Moscow during the Cold War. Whitney Houston went to South Africa and performed standing with the country’s new president Nelson Mandela.

Cohen called YouTube the world’s largest virtual stage, in more than 100 countries and 80 languages.

“I never would have imagined that I would have the honor and privilege to stand here,” said Cohen about collaborating with the U.S. State Department. “I cannot think of a better partnership for all of us to come together and promote global peace through music.”

Cohen’s career in music spans 40 years. At age 21, he was road manager for Run-D.M.C. and the Beastie Boys. He also managed Public Enemy, the group that Chuck D is still with.

This group of global music ambassadors represents different musical genres, ages, races, genders, and advocacy issues. 

ChuckD compared this cultural initiative to the music business. 

“Peace, like good music, is easy to achieve. It takes time, detail, persistence, resilience, refinement, honesty, and creativity,” said Chuck D,  one of the founding members of Public Enemy. 

Mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves, a native Washingtonian and Duke Ellington School for the Performing Arts graduate, said she is thrilled to be included as a musical ambassador.

“In times of crises, we have to find an agent that will be universal,” Graves said about this opportunity. “I feel a great sense of responsibility and pride growing up in Washington, D.C., to be in this room.

Songwriter Justin Tranter emphasized that he does not take his new role as a global music ambassador lightly. He started in the music business as a band member in 2005. His compositions have been performed by Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez, Britney Spears, Gwen Stefani, Imagine Dragons, Maroon 5, and other artists. 

“I am in two communities, the LGBTQ+ and as a songwriter,” said Tranter, “I feel my communities have so much to offer in terms of storytelling and knowing how to ‘fight the good fight’”

BRELAND, a songwriter, producer, and performer, has close ties to D.C. He graduated from Georgetown University and proudly stated that his parents and grandparents graduated from Howard University. So far in his career as a musician, he has traveled to Australia, South Africa, and Europe and will soon depart for Korea. He said returning to D.C. for the music ambassador announcement represents a new chapter in his life.

“It’s an extension of what I have been doing,” said BRELAND, who has worked with Keith Urban, Ty Dolla $ign, Trey Songz, Chris Brown, and Kehlani. “I’ve seen firsthand how powerful music can be to connect with people with everything happening in the world.”

The countries where these talented musicians will travel have yet to be named. The reality of this appointment will set in as they are warmly greeted in other countries as U.S. Global Music Ambassadors.

Wilson is one of the biggest country music artists currently on the scene and a recent inductee into the Grand Ole Opry. She joked about the language barriers she encountered during her performances outside of America.

“The power of music is that it transcends language barriers,” said Wilson, making fun of her Louisiana accent. “What I have learned from traveling the world and playing music is that we are actually more alike than you think.”

Brenda Siler is an award-winning journalist and public relations strategist. Her communications career began in college as an advertising copywriter, a news reporter, public affairs producer/host and a...

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