|Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Remarks at Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition
Washington, DC, October 25, 1997
As released by the Office of the Spokesman, October 27, 1997
U.S. Department of State
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Good evening, everybody; and it's really wonderful to have you all here for this very, very special event.
Fifty years ago, Chuck Yeager broke one kind of sound barrier with his airplane. Thelonious Monk broke another kind - smoother, sweeter and cooler - with his piano.
As his first recordings of "'Round Midnight" and other compositions gave evidence, Thelonious Monk had a daring new way of making music. Monk left American jazz and American culture far richer than he found them. He also left us his son, T.S. Monk, who brings his own talents to the task of promoting his father's art form and building his own legacy.
The annual Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz competitions are a tremendous opportunity for American musicians; and a great chance for the rest of us to catch a glimpse of jazz's future. As much as any single institution, the Institute of Jazz itself is building that future.
But you do something else that would be near and dear to the heart of any Secretary of State. You take your show on the road, across the United States and around the world, teaching classes and playing concerts. From Thailand to the Caribbean, you are eloquent ambassadors for a simple idea - that the world doesn't have to be divided as long as we have jazz to unite us.
I can testify to the fact that it was jazz that played a great role in bringing down the Iron Curtain - especially in my native country, which was then known of Czechoslovakia, where in fact the jazz group was not only a musical group, but a dissident group. And President Havel now loves crawling around to a variety of jazz places, where I'm always honored to take him.
It is said that although songs may stop, music never does. It is the sound of God breathing in and out. And jazz truly is the universal language. Thank you for speaking that language so beautifully and for bringing us closer together.
Fifty years ago I was a newly-minted American, living in Denver, Colorado. T.S. Monk was a number not yet composed. But Thelonious Monk was setting down musical standards that thrill audiences and inspire musicians to this day. And a young man named George Wein was looking for ways to share his love of jazz with the good people of Boston, Massachusetts. Since then, George Wein has founded more jazz festivals than most people have children. He, too, has been a jazz ambassador, bringing that most American art form to new audiences at home and abroad. And he still fronts his own band - something most ambassadors, not to mention Secretaries of State, dream of.
Both our presenter, T.S. Monk, and his award recipient, George Wein, are national treasures. And I'm proud to present T.S. Monk to you, and we still have a performance ahead of us. In the words of Thelonious Monk, "let's not talk about music, let's play it."
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