In commemoration of Juneteenth and in light of current events in the United States, Quincy Jones issued a statement today (June 19) on behalf of Qwest TV, the video streaming service that he co-founded and curates. Beginning in September, the service will provide its Qwest TV Educational Platform for free to all interested primary and secondary schools, music schools, colleges, and universities across the U.S., giving students and teachers access to concert films, documentaries, and archival footage that represents a cross-section of music including jazz, R&B, world, and classical.
Jones’ full statement follows:
“Growing up in the Southside of Chicago and Bremerton, Washington during the Great Depression, I was fortunate enough to have been mentored by some of the greatest jazz cats of all time. I’m talking about Dizzy Gillespie, Duke Ellington, Bird, Lionel Hampton, Benny Carter, you name it. The absolute best of the best. Their music and history was incredibly rich, and man, I got sucked in from day one. Fortunately, for me, I had a direct connection with these landmark figures, and now after having been on this planet for close to nine decades, I’ve personally experienced the highs and lows that this world has to offer.
“Much to our collective disservice, the United States and Germany are two of the only countries without a Minister of Culture, and this communal inattentiveness to our roots has been detrimental to our individual and collective understanding of identity. Oftentimes, people don’t know who they are because they have no frame of reference. Well, everything is based upon what has happened before us, and if you know where you come from, it’s easier to get where you want to go! Kids (and adults alike) need to know where they come from. Plain and simple. Big bands, Bebop, Doo-wop, Hip-Hop, Laptop, that’s all sociological. The bebop to hip-hop connection is about being aware: more specifically, being aware that all of our music springs from the same roots, and they inform much of what we call mainstream music today.
“When I lived in Paris during the late 50’s, I learned a great deal about life, because having come from America in the midst of segregation, Paris taught me about acceptance, regardless of color or culture. They loved jazz, and more importantly, they took people who looked like me in as their own. Man, we wouldn’t have jazz if it weren’t for the French and Congo Square during slavery. Jazz conditioned me to be an open thinker, and taught me how to improvise in nearly every area of my life. It has always been focused on freedom and pure imagination, through an absolutely beautiful and nonrigid, democratic perspective on music and the world.
“In the same way, there is something absolutely beautiful about the fact that music has the unique ability to connect people from all walks of life. I’m talking about individuals of different races, beliefs, socio-economic statuses, you name it. And man, the history of our music is incredibly deep; the fact of the matter is, people don’t know enough about it and the influence that it has had on our modern-day music and life.
“What we’re going through right now is nothing new. Take it from someone who has been on this planet since before electricity! ((:0)) It’s difficult to know what to say during a time such as this, because I’ve been dealing with racism my entire life. That said, it’s rearing its ugly head right now, and by God, it’s time to deal with it once and for all.
“Before the late, great Duke Ellington passed, we did the Duke Ellington…We Love You Madly TV special (my first television credit as a producer) and my blessed brother, Duke, gave me a photo of him, signed, ‘To Q, who will be the one to de-categorize American music,’ and that’s exactly what I’ve tried to do all of my life. Whether it was through the creation of my 1989 album, Back on the Block, a simmering musical stew of everything from jazz to world to hip-hop to swing music; to working with every genre under the sun; to the South Central to South Africa trip with Nelson Mandela, it has been a part of the very fabric of my calling to help break down the barriers for any willing ear.
“So, it absolutely brings me a great deal of joy to announce that from September onwards, we at Qwest TV will be giving out free access to our ‘Qwest TV Educational Platform’ to all willing elementary-high schools, music schools, colleges, and universities from across the country, with over 1,000 programs of music, while rightly retributing the artists and rights owners. Documentaries, archives, and concerts from all over the world highlight the beauty of our humanity and what makes our differences a strength to share. We want each kid and student in this country to be able to freely explore their musical history by rediscovering their roots, both through jazz and beyond.
“We’ve got to believe that we are multicultural miracles, and we at Qwest TV want all of you to embrace and celebrate that. The future is a bright, beautiful mix of colors, and we hope that many will join us by taking action in all fields of society, to lay the groundwork for a positive future for the kids of tomorrow.
“Avec la patience, on arrive à tout! Merci!”
For more information, school and university representatives should contact Qwest TV’s education department at [email protected]. Artists and/or their representatives who would like to partake in this initiative are encouraged to email [email protected], and supporters wanting to share further ideas on how to nurture positive futures should email [email protected].