Congresswoman Donna Edwards (D-MD,4th) submitted a statement into the Congressional Record on May 3, 2010, commemorating the founding of Turkey’s first Jazz Department at Hacettepe University State Conservatory. Congresswoman Edwards was a guest of honor at the inauguration of the Department on April 2nd, along with Congressman Ed Whitfield (R-KY 1st) and Congressman James P. Moran (D-VA 8th), during a TCA-sponsored congressional delegation visit to Turkey.
In her statement, Congresswoman Edwards emphasized that Jazz, in the words of Congressman John Conyers of Michigan, is “a unifying force, bridging cultural, religious, ethnic and age differences in our diverse society” and stated that the introduction of jazz education in Turkey “further demonstrates the sweeping influence of this national treasure and its power to build bridges extending beyond our shores.”
Mrs. Edwards stated that the trip provided her the opportunity to “witness first-hand another culture’s deep appreciation for this over a century old African-American tradition, “ and she paid special tribute to Atlantic Records founder, the late Ahmet Ertegün, a Turkish American. “The son of a Turkish Ambassador father and a mother who filled their house with music, Ahmet and his brother Nesuhi became fans of blues and jazz at an early age while residing in Washington D.C. The first ever integrated concert in Washington D.C. featuring jazz greats Duke Ellington and Lena Horne came about due to the efforts of the Ertegün brothers. Atlantic Records was established in 1947 and over the next several decades produced albums by jazz legends including John Coltrane, Charles Mingus, Dizzy Gillespie, and Wilbur de Paris. The Turkish fascination with jazz is attributable not only to the genius of the music itself but Ahmet Ertegün’s success in helping it evolve into an internationally renowned art form, “ Edwards stated.
Congresswoman Edwards saluted the joint effort of American and Turkish individuals and organizations in the establishment of the Department as “a testament to over sixty years of enduring friendship between the United States and Turkey,” and added that “through shared appreciation of the arts these two great nations have formed yet another vital and resilient bond.”