UofL professor practices the ‘art’ of diplomacy

Mike Tracy, professor and director of the School of Music’s jazz studies program, is what you might call a world jazz ambassador. He’s visited nearly 50 countries in the pursuit of learning and teaching music.

But a trip this summer was particularly special as its goal was nearly political: bring people of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Republic of Georgia and other countries in the Caucasus region together with music, despite historic tensions that still simmer.

As a Fulbright Senior Specialist, Tracy traveled with fellow UofL professor and guitarist Craig Wagner to Tbilisi, Georgia, where they taught two weeks of workshops, followed by performances at the Kavkaz Jazz Festival.

He said the trip ultimately fulfilled its goal, with the highest levels of camaraderie reached, particularly during jam sessions following the festival.

“There were no boundaries, no attitudes, nothing but the joy of making music together,” he said. “Where in the world, at least on those nights, would one find guitarists alongside others playing the Azeri tar and Georgian fanduri; drummers trading with one another on the Iranian tombak; where duduk, pku, zuma and shvi players would be harmonizing with saxophonists and flutists? It was clear that we were able to reach each other through the music, and I know I was touched by their engagement, sincerity, questions and overall enthusiasm.”

Tracy said he’s in talks now about continuing the collaboration. Possibilities include a student exchange with UofL and the Tbilisi State Conservatoire.