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John Edward Hasse

Award-Winning Music Historian


John Edward Hasse is a music historian, pianist, and award-winning author and record producer. He serves as curator of American music at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History, where he was founding executive director of the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra, an acclaimed big band, and where he founded the national Jazz Appreciation Month, celebrated every April throughout the US.

Hasse is the author of the critically acclaimed biography Beyond Category: The Life and Genius of Duke Ellington and the editor of the major illustrated history Jazz: The First Century, with forewords by Tony Bennett and Quincy Jones. Library Journal called the book "a major contribution to the understanding of jazz."

At the Smithsonian, Hasse was co-director of America's Jazz Heritage, a 10-year, $7-million partnership with the Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund. He led the Institution's efforts to acquire the 200,000-page Duke Ellington archive and curated the traveling exhibition "Beyond Category: The Musical Genius of Duke Ellington." He also led the museum's initiative to acquire the archives of Ella Fitzgerald and co-curated the exhibition "Ella Fitzgerald: First Lady of Song." He is editor of Ragtime: Its History, Composers, and Music; producer-annotator of the two-CD set Beyond Category: The Musical Genius of Duke Ellington; and producer-author of the book and three-disc set The Classic Hoagy Carmichael. He is a contributor to seven encyclopedias.

An expert on leadership, American music, and jazz, Dr. John Edward Hasse inspires audiences to reach for their own highest accomplishment in all fields. Has spoken on leadership to the World Bank, New York Life, the Cleveland Clinic, the American College of Healthcare Executives, the US Department of Education, and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

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Ragtime, Blues & Jazz: A Piano Concert with Commentary

Pianist and lecturer Dr. John Edward Hasse takes you on a concert tour through six decades of jazz, from Scott Joplin through Herbie Hancock. The diverse selections you'll hear in this program span the beginnings of jazz through blues, boogie-woogie, ballads, swing, soul jazz, and modern jazz.

You'll be treated to the following and more!

  • The virtuosity of Scott Joplin's celebrated "Maple Leaf Rag"
  • The down-home licks of W.C. Handy's "St. Louis Blues"
  • The rollicking strains of boogie-woogie
  • The infectious melodies of Fats Waller
  • Hoagy Carmichael's romantic "Stardust"
  • George Gershwin's gorgeous lullaby "Summertime"
  • "Standards" by Duke Ellington
  • The finger-snapping, gospel-infused "Moanin'"
  • Herbie Hancock's rockin' "Watermelon Man"

Dr. Hasse provides a lively running commentary while enriching the musical experience with dozens of colorful slides. Your audience will find themselves swept up in a concert event that's unlike any they've attended – at once informative and movingly entertaining. This one is a toe-tapper!

Leadership Lessons from the Jazz Masters

In today's swiftly changing business environment, success is captured by the masters of innovation: those who find creative ways to lead, address challenges, and sprint to the head of the pack. The lives of the great jazz masters are rich with lessons that can teach us how.

Because improvisation is the heart and soul of their art, jazz musicians are among the most consistently creative professionals of our time. In improvising their music night after night on the bandstand, they take calculated risks to produce creative results. And the musicians must be ever-resilient in the moment and over time: this music's history has been about inventing and accommodating rapid change.

In a well-illustrated presentation, Smithsonian curator, author, jazz pianist, and NPR commentator John Edward Hasse shares secrets from the lives of jazz masters that can inspire and benefit people in business.

You will learn:

  • How the jazz musician's art – rehearsing, jamming, improvising, and keeping things fresh – can be applied to business
  • How, as a young man, Louis Armstrong revolutionized American music and taught everyone new ways of practicing an old craft
  • How Duke Ellington developed his secrets for finding, stimulating and retaining individual talent
  • How Ellington's affirmation of diversity can inspire today's business leaders
  • How Miles Davis continually reinvented himself as an artist throughout his career
  • How Miles dealt with major change in and out of the workplace
  • How Miles taught – and learned from – the young people he hired
  • How Ella Fitzgerald successfully navigated major changes in public taste
  • How the most brilliant jazz masters have thought "outside the box" and created new paradigms

God Bless America: American Songs of Patriotism

Music commands a unique ability to stir our deepest emotions, to comfort us in times of grief, to express our deeply held values, and to bind us together in shared experiences. American songs of patriotism poignantly express our indomitable national spirit. Our patriotic songs suffuse us with love of country, with the pride of a nation, with reverent gratitude, and with hope.

Take a fascinating and moving tour of America's best, most celebrated patriotic music with Dr. John Edward Hasse, curator of American music at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History (home of one of America's greatest symbols, the world-famous Star-Spangled Banner flag).

You'll hear definitive recordings of such all-American pieces as "The Star-Spangled Banner," "America," "America the Beautiful," "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," John Philip Sousa's "The Stars and Stripes Forever," Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land," and Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the U.S.A." Accompanied by colorful slide images, Hasse present the stories behind these beloved and meaningful songs. You'll find out, for example, which anthem was originally a drinking song; which song initially created a scandal because it was considered unpatriotic; and which of these songs was written in direct opposition, in fact as an antidote, to another?

The hour crescendos with Irving Berlin's "God Bless America," to which everyone is invited to sing along. You'll leave American Songs of Patriotism with a heightened appreciation of the power of song in expressing what is beautiful and great about the United States of America.

Imagine a World Without Art: Why We Need the Arts More Than Ever

Imagine a world with no art. No movies, no plays, no theater, no poetry, no novels, and no music. So difficult is it to imagine a world bereft of art, it's nearly inconceivable. That's because the arts give so much meaning to our lives. As clean air and water are to the human body, art is to the human spirit. Art feeds our souls, expresses our creativity, stimulates our imaginations, and inspires us to reach for excellence.

In this stimulating presentation, Dr. John Edward Hasse of the Smithsonian Institution lays out an invigorating and compelling case for why, more than ever before, we need the arts in our lives. For example: the arts embody the human imagination, record human achievement, and, along with language and higher reasoning, distinguish us as a species from the rest of the animal kingdom. We humans form communities and cultures by making art: poems and paintings, drama and dance, sculpture, stories, and songs. The arts form links from people to people, culture to culture, and age to age. And, if the arts are vital to the lives of adults, they are especially critical in teaching our children.

Dr. Hasse offers an emotionally engaging, wonderfully dynamic presentation that includes:

  • Moving audio-dialogue from "Hamlet" and The Grapes of Wrath
  • Tributes to Van Gogh and Charlie Chaplin
  • A sample of "The Nutcracker" ballet
  • Poetry by Emily Dickinson
  • Excerpts from Bizet's opera "Carmen" and "Beethoven's 9th Symphony"
  • Ella Fitzgerald singing Gershwin and Judy Garland doing "Over the Rainbow"
  • Duke Ellington's infectious "Take the ‘A' Train" and part of a soaring Louis Armstrong trumpet solo that will lift you right out of your seat
  • A piano solo from Dr. Hasse himself – a solo that never fails to move his audiences

The Triumph of American Music

Everywhere you go in the world, you hear American music. You can hear the twangy chords of country music in the hamlets of Ireland, the hypnotic beat of rock on the streets of Singapore, Gershwin sung in a Copenhagen cabaret, and jazz insinuating itself into a warm Moroccan night. American music is one of the hottest things to leave our shores, becoming among our most pervasive and sought-after exports – more so than American art, theater, dance, or literature.

Just why is American music so resoundingly popular? So uniquely compelling to peoples the world over? Dr. John Edward Hasse, Curator of American Music at the Smithsonian Institution and author of several books on music, answers these and other questions.

The Triumph of American Music is richly illustrated with timeless recordings. You'll enjoy the music of John Philip Sousa, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Hank Williams, Woody Guthrie, George Gershwin, Aaron Copland, and Leonard Bernstein. You'll hear William Warfield singing the majestic "Ol' Man River," Ella Fitzgerald interpreting "Irving Berlin," Frank Sinatra doing Hoagy Carmichael's romantic "Stardust," as well as Elvis Presley, Aretha Franklin, Billy Joel, and other great music makers.

You'll hear and learn about the highlights of our music. You'll be filled with appreciation for the all-American geniuses who gave us our best symphonies and our finest songs. American music boasts a truly extraordinary vitality, vibrancy, elasticity, and expressiveness. It's one of the great things about our country. Ours is a music born of freedom, the sound of which is unlike any other. It is unique, for truly nobody makes music like Americans do.

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