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The Philadelphia Orchestra and the Government of Mongolia Announce New Cultural Partnership

March 03, 2016

The Philadelphia Orchestra will be adding to its already impressive list of “firsts” when it performs in Mongolia in 2017, the first Western orchestra to perform in the country.

This new cultural partnership was announced on Thursday, March 3, when the Orchestra and the Government of Mongolia signed an official Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Government of Mongolia during an event in SFRC (Senate Foreign Relations Committee) room S-116 at the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C.  

Philadelphia Orchestra President and CEO Allison Vulgamore makes remarks during the announcement. Also pictured, from left to right, are North America-Mongolia Business Council member Ronald Deutch, Mongolian Ambassador to the U.S. Bulgaa Altangerel, Ambassador Nicholas Platt, and U.S. Representative Joe Pitts.

The MOU documents a cooperative commitment whereby the Orchestra will be in “Residence” to engage in “People-to-People” cultural diplomacy, including two full orchestra concerts, as well as a series of special events throughout Ulaanbaatar. The events will be designed in partnership with Mongolian musicians, local schools and cultural institutions, as well as other civic and government institutions.

Philadelphia Orchestra cellist Robert Cafaro plays during the morning announcement.

“The Philadelphia Orchestra is steadfast in our support of the State Department’s commitment to‎ innovative cultural diplomacy,” said Orchestra President and CEO Allison Vulgamore. “During our time in Mongolia, in addition to traditional performances, The Philadelphia Orchestra will co-design community-based music activities. Having honed our in-residence model over several years, we now look forward to this next extraordinary cultural exchange, sharing person to person the common language of music in schools, hospitals, and with our fellow Mongolian musicians.”

Horsehead fiddle player Khatanbold Urlagbaatar also performed during the event.

Members of Pennsylvania’s Senate and Congressional delegation, led by U.S. Senator Robert Casey, Jr., and U.S. Representative Joe Pitts, were in attendance, as were Mongolian Ambassador to the U.S. Bulgaa Altangerel and Ambassador Nicholas Platt, among others.

The announcement ceremony also featured performances by musicians from both sides of the partnership. This was the first time that music has been performed in SFRC room S-116, one of the most revered diplomatic spaces in the Capitol Building.

Ambassador Altangerel and Allison Vulgamore sign the Memorandum of Understanding.

“Today, on behalf of Ulaanbaatar, the capital city of Mongolia, I am honored to sign an MOU with The Philadelphia Orchestra to express our commitment in hosting the Orchestra’s concerts in the City of Ulaanbaatar in the summer of 2017,” said Ambassador Altangerel. “I personally see this partnership as an open gateway to a blossoming relationship between our two cultures through bringing Western music and exploring and promoting Mongolian traditional cultural heritages to the United States. I believe that this visit provides an open platform for U.S. and Mongolian government institutions, businesses, and cultural institutions to engage and collaborate.”

2017 marks the 30th anniversary of official U.S.-Mongolian diplomatic relations, which adds considerable meaning to the goal of helping foster increased cross-cultural understanding, familiarity, and support. The Residency will demonstrate the critically important role that arts and culture play in the overall civic and economic health of a nation. The Philadelphia Orchestra’s presence in Mongolia will help strengthen ties between our two countries and make an indelible mark on the entire region.

Gathered left to right in SFRC (Senate Foreign Relations Committee) room S-116 at the United States Capitol are Vice President for Orchestra Advancement Ryan Fleur, Cafaro, Philadelphia Orchestra Vice President for Global Initiatives and Government Relations Craig Hamilton, Platt, Altangerel, Vulgamore, Urlagbaatar, Pitts, and Deutch.

Since President Richard Nixon asked The Philadelphia Orchestra to visit China in 1973 (shortly following his groundbreaking meetings with Chairman Mao), they have been honored to serve as the premier cultural ambassadors of the United States. This innovative orchestra was also the first U.S. orchestra to perform in Vietnam following the Vietnam War, and has a legacy of firsts that includes the first radio, TV, and internet broadcasts of a symphony.

Photos by Scott Suchman