John Robilette | Concert Pianist, Cultural Diplomat
Concert at National Philharmonic Hall in Minsk

Cultural Diplomacy

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  • " of the best cultural bargains the American people ever bought."
    Baltimore Evening Sun
    July 13, 1984
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Artistic Ambassador Nation Press Conference, 1984
In 1982, Mr. Robilette created an international cultural exchange program revolving around classical music for the United States Information Agency titled the Artistic Ambassador Program. It was predicated on the notion that the government would reach into the depression of opportunity that is the classical music market and, through live auditions in the 50 states, find the best of those musicians who were not famous but deserved to be. They were then sent overseas as Artistic Ambassadors and programmed through our embassies throughout the countries. The budget was very small because these artists worked cheaply, were unspoiled and amenable to making sacrifices. During Mr. Robilette's tenure from 1982-1989, the program became popular in 63 countries around the world and garnered rave press articles, reviews and cable evaluations throughout the world. Musical America Magazine said that, "It is doubtful if any federal program of this century has proven as cost effective," and The Baltimore Evening Sun called it "the best cultural bargain the American People ever bought."

From 1982-1989 through the Artistic Ambassador Program, John Robilette had:

  • Sent American classical musicians to 63 countries.
  • Reached into all 50 states with live auditions (for the first time in government history) for solo pianists, violin-piano duos, cello-piano duos, and piano trios.
  • Received recognition within the United States from: President Reagan, The Congressional Record The Baltimore Evening Sun, Musical America, High Fidelity, Clavier, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Cable News Network, American Airlines in-flight magazine, etc.
  • Regularly commissioned American composers to write special pieces for these overseas tours as part of an ongoing cultural presentation for the U.S. government (done this way for the first time in government history).
  • Obtained an archive at the Library of Congress where manuscripts of these composers remain (120 minutes of American piano music, and one violin-piano duo). The commissioned composers include: Morton Gould, Norman Dello Joio, Geoge Rochberg, Ernst Bacon, Ross Lee Finney, Elie Siegmeister, Benjamin Lees, Leo Smit, Lee Hoiby, Robert Muczynski, William Mayer, George Perle, and Lukas Foss.
  • Advised the Ford Motor Company and the Kennedy Center on setting up the Artistic Ambassador Concert Series at the Kennedy Center. This series, which was sponsored by the Ford Motor Company from 1986-1988, involved recital appearances by alumni of the Artistic Ambassador Program.

On February 23, 2009 Mr. Robilette, himself, was hosted by the American Embassy in a performance before invited guests from the London world of art and politics. In addition to London, Mr. Robilette has also been hosted in performances at the residences of American Ambassadors in Prague, Luxembourg, Buenos Aires, Montevideo and Santa Domingo.

During 2002 Mr. Robilette was asked to create a concert series to celebrate the Voice of America’s 60th anniversary of broadcasting. He engaged the finest classical artists in America to perform to live audiences every two weeks in the Wilbur Cohen Auditorium, which was then broadcast to thirty million people overseas. The artists played for only a small honorarium since it had been less than one year since 9/11 and they wished to do something for their country. This was another powerful statement about artists reflecting the values of their nation.