There will be a concert this weekend in Washington, DC, honoring Willis Conover, the Voice of America jazz broadcaster who was one of the most effective public diplomats in US history. The nation he served did little while he was alive to recognize his contributions and since he died in 1996 has done less. Efforts to persuade President Clinton, then President Bush, to award him a posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom have gone nowhere. To read a Rifftides posting about Conover, go here. You may browse the archive (link in the left-hand column) and find several items.
There are those in Washington not in the administration who know the value of what Conover accomplished. They include people at the VOA and at the Smithsonian Institution and, apparently, all of the Blues Alley Jazz Society. Here is the announcement about Saturday night’s concert.
Blues Alley Jazz Society invites you to the First Annual Willis Conover Memorial Concert, featuring the U.S. Military Academy “Jazz Knights” and the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra. Whereas H.R. 57 officially proclaimed jazz as America’s indigenous musical art form, we seek to memorialize the legacy of Willis Conover and his efforts to extend jazz music during the Cold War era through the radio waves of the Voice of America. It is our hope that you will join us in making Washington, D.C. the home of jazz music during this component of the Third Annual Big Band Jam.
The Willis Conover Memorial Concert will be held from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. on Saturday, April 28th at the Voice of America Stage. You are asked to arrive at 6:00 p.m. with photo identification as the Voice of America building is a federal facility. Some street parking is available, and attendees are encouraged to utilize the Colonial Parking service located at 6th and C Streets, SW. Reservations are required due to security issues; visit the Big Band Jam Web site to make a reservation.
Willis Conover at the White House, 1969
Under Doug’s Picks in the right column, you will find mention of a new book about Conover.