Yearlong project asking “What is American culture?” finishes

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 19, 2016

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Yearlong Project asking “What is American Culture?” finishes

Violinist spent one week in every state in 2016

INDIANAPOLIS—A project in which a concert violinist travels to each state for one week, asking the question “What is American culture?”, has concluded 50 weeks after it began on January 3. During this presidential election year, Cultures in Harmony (CiH), a nonprofit promoting cultural understanding through music, solicited answers to the question posed by the project in order to celebrate and explore the many ways it is possible to define American culture.

CiH founder William Harvey traveled to every state for one week, driving 26,904 miles to the 48 contiguous states and flying to Alaska and Hawaii. Answers to the question the project poses are available on social media via the hashtag #americancultureis. The hashtag also identifies pictures of the project on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. On the CiH website, the project’s page has an interactive map that links to all the interviews, videos, essays, photos, and artistic collaborations generated as part of the project.

Highlights of the project included:

  • A video of the National Anthem, filmed by a cowboy in Amarillo, Texas, that reached 1.8 million views since its posting on November 1
  • Popular portraits of small town life in Mulberry, Arkansas, and of a black newspaper owner in Tulsa, Oklahoma
  • Controversial and thought-provoking discussions with Douglas Wilson, a minister in Idaho who wrote a pamphlet defending slavery; with staff at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival; and with protesters in the shadow of the border wall in Nogales, Arizona, and others
  • Poignant interviews with a Salish language expert from the Spokane tribe, with a Muslim sex researcher in Omaha, Nebraska, and with a hardware store owner in Marshall, North Carolina, among many others
  • Collaborations with musicians from a variety of genres, including bluegrass in Tennessee, blues in Mississippi, hip hop in Florida and Kentucky, funk in North Carolina, “jazzicana” in Kentucky, and polka in Nebraska
  • School and university residencies in which students were challenged to artistically express their own definitions of American culture
  • Public concerts in venues ranging from a club in San Francisco to a museum in Lawrence, Kansas, to Indiana University’s Auer Hall
  • Playing music by renowned Alaskan composer John Luther Adams at a women’s prison outside Anchorage and then interviewing the inmates about their perspective on American culture
  • A video filmed at the US Space and Rocket Center in Alabama and an essay about Lockheed Martin’s Colorado facility, showcasing the role of the space program in defining American culture
  • A video showing the breadth of culture in Tucker County, West Virginia, from an arts festival to a mud bog race
  • Perspectives ranging from kindergarteners to nonagenarians, from veterans to tiny house hotel owners, from every racial, religious, and political demographic in the US

Professional filmmakers who made videos as part of the project were Umbreen Butt (Idaho and Washington), Eric Scherbarth (Kansas), Marina Fazel (Maryland and DC), CJ Baird (Rhode Island), and Chad Hendricks (Florida). Dozens of musicians, including renowned pianist Frederic Chiu (Connecticut), violinist Gregory Walker (Colorado), and rappers Mal Jones (Florida) and 1200 (Kentucky) collaborated with William throughout the project.

Since 2005, Cultures in Harmony has conducted 40 projects promoting cultural understanding through music in 16 countries from Pakistan to Papua New Guinea. Its founder, William Harvey, studied violin at The Juilliard School and Indiana University, taught violin in Afghanistan from 2010 to 2014, and has performed solo with orchestras in the USA, Mexico, Argentina, and the Philippines.  The “What is American culture?” project was supported with private donations and by a grant from the Lilly Endowment underwriting the performance of music from Indiana during the state’s bicentennial year.


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