Smithsonian Jazz

Smithsonian Jazz

A cultural treasure

In 1990 the U.S. Congress, recognizing the importance of jazz in American culture, authorized the establishment of the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra (SJMO), an 18-piece big band orchestra-in-residence at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

As the national jazz orchestra, the SJMO promotes and shares some of the greatest music that jazz has created. Throughout the years the orchestra has distinguished itself as one of the treasures of the Smithsonian—itself a preeminent national treasure.

The band has performed for audiences across the United States and throughout Canada, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, bringing treasured jazz music to the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the White House and the U.S. Capitol, Harlem’s famed Apollo Theater, the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, prestigious music festivals, and schools and colleges around the world.

The SJMO is not just the only federally chartered orchestra in America; it is the only such ensemble in residence at a museum, creating an exceptional relationship between the ensemble and the museum’s vast holdings of jazz music history. From its archives including 150,000 unpublished Duke Ellington scores to its collections including John Coltrane’s saxophone, the museum provides a unique historical grounding and access for the orchestra, placing it in an exceptional position to make the legacy of jazz come alive.

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Jazz Appreciation Month (JAM)

The National Museum of American History created JAM in 2001 to draw the public’s attention to the glories of jazz as both a historical treasure and a living treasure. A month-long complement in April to the museum’s year-round jazz program, JAM highlights the music and legacy of jazz, from contributions to American ingenuity and innovation to advocacy for desegregation and civil rights, and the export of American culture abroad. While the museum spotlights jazz through concerts, public programs, and displays, JAM encourages musicians, concert halls, schools, colleges, museums, libraries, and public broadcasters to offer special programs on jazz every April.

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Jazz Beyond Borders:
From the Golden Gate to the Great Wall
2018–2019 Tour 

The 2018–2019 season offers an incomparable experience for jazz lovers, music enthusiast, and fans of the orchestra. Building upon the 2017–2018 Jazz and Democracy season, we are excited to announce the orchestra will embark on a 10-city global initiative that will take the orchestra across the world to share a diverse program of American and international jazz. From San Francisco to

Beijing, the orchestra will engage audiences on the role that jazz plays in their communities, in their personal lives, and in cultural identity around the world.

This tour will ignite the Smithsonian’s goal of "convening conversations," in which we will use the power of music as a springboard into important discussions around democracy, diversity, identity, and diplomacy

Jazz music embodies the values that the orchestra, the National Museum of American History, and the Smithsonian all cherish: that creativity and collaboration thrive in diverse and inclusive communities. This is true in society, and this is true for music ensembles. This season the orchestra will share and highlight its four core values:

  • Creativity
  • Collaboration
  • Diversity
  • Inclusion

To honor these values and embody their meaning, the orchestra will invite a variety of celebrity musicians to perform alongside the orchestra in each of its destinations. See the tour schedule below for news and information on each guest musician.

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