At 10 AM on the morning of Thursday, March 3, The Philadelphia Orchestra and the Government of Mongolia formalized a groundbreaking new relationship during an event in SFRC (Senate Foreign Relations Committee) room S-116 at the United States Capitol in Washington, DC.
During this ceremonial and celebratory event, which featured performances by musicians from both sides of the partnership, The Philadelphia Orchestra signed an official Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Government of Mongolia. This is the first time that music has been performed in SFRC S-116, one of the most revered diplomatic spaces in the Capitol Building.
The MOU documents a cooperative commitment whereby the Orchestra will be in "Residence" to engage in "People-to-People" cultural diplomacy, including two full orchestra concerts, as well as a series of special events throughout Ulaanbaatar. The events will be designed in partnership with Mongolian musicians, local schools and cultural institutions, as well as other civic and government institutions. The Philadelphia Orchestra will be the first Western orchestra to perform in Mongolia.
"The Philadelphia Orchestra is steadfast in our support of the State Department's commitment to innovative cultural diplomacy," said Orchestra President and CEO Allison Vulgamore. "During our time in Mongolia, in addition to traditional performances, The Philadelphia Orchestra will co-design community-based music activities. Having honed our in-residence model over several years, we now look forward to this next extraordinary cultural exchange, sharing person to person the common language of music in schools, hospitals, and with our fellow Mongolian musicians."
Members of Pennsylvania's Senate and Congressional delegation, led by U.S. Senator Robert Casey, Jr., and U.S. Representative Joe Pitts, were in attendance, as were Mongolian Ambassador to the U.S. Bulgaa Altangerel and Ambassador Nicholas Platt. In addition State Department officials, business leaders in the Asia and Pacific region, and thought leaders in the area of cultural diplomacy gathered for the event.
"Today, on behalf of Ulaanbaatar, the capital city of Mongolia, I am honored to sign an MOU with The Philadelphia Orchestra to express our commitment in hosting the Orchestra's concerts in the City of Ulaanbaatar in the summer of 2017," said Ambassador Altangerel. "I personally see this partnership as an open gateway to a blossoming relationship between our two cultures through bringing Western music and exploring and promoting Mongolian traditional cultural heritages to the United States. I believe that this visit provides an open platform for U.S. and Mongolian government institutions, businesses, and cultural institutions to engage and collaborate."
2017 marks the 30th anniversary of official U.S.-Mongolian diplomatic relations, which adds considerable meaning to the goal of helping foster increased cross-cultural understanding, familiarity, and support. The Residency will demonstrate the critically important role that arts and culture play in the overall civic and economic health of a nation. The Philadelphia Orchestra's presence in Mongolia will help strengthen ties between our two countries and make an indelible mark on the entire region.
"Today, we celebrate the achievements that President Kennedy called statecraft, which involves all matters of all governments involved in diplomacy, policy, and so many other departments," said Senator Casey. "The artistic accomplishments and the cultural accomplishments that we are celebrating today represent the kind of future that President Kennedy hoped for. And on a day like today, that hope is realized."
Located between Russia and China, Mongolia describes the United States as its "most important third neighbor." Mongolia adopted democracy in 1990 and has since conducted six presidential and six legislative elections. Congress (H.Res. 339 and S.Res. 189) has been influential over the last year in supporting Mongolian democracy and fostering U.S. Mongolian relations.
"As the Mongolian people celebrate 25 years of democracy, we in this country also celebrate it in the spirit of friendship," said Representative Pitts. "We'll come together over thousands of miles and across cultural differences to find what is truly universal: democracy, freedom, and our shared appreciation for beauty and arts."
"One of the things I am most excited about for our institution is for our musicians to come in contact with the people of Mongolia," said Craig Hamilton, Orchestra vice president for global initiatives and government relations. "To experience not just their gracious hospitality, but also the enthusiasm for, and pride in, their country and their culture, for where it is now and where it is going. When I was invited by the Mongolian Ambassador to the U.S. to visit Ulaanbaatar, it was clear to me that there great anticipation and excitement for the future. The Orchestra is honored to be a part of helping Mongolia share that enthusiasm with the world."
Since President Richard Nixon asked The Philadelphia Orchestra to visit China in 1973 (shortly following his groundbreaking meetings with Chairman Mao), they have been honored to serve as the premier cultural ambassadors of the United States. This innovative orchestra was also the first U.S. orchestra to perform in Vietnam following the Vietnam War, and has a legacy of firsts that includes the first radio, TV, and internet broadcasts of a symphony.