A diverse crowd gathered at the U.N. last night to celebrate five years of the powerful partnership between the Fulbright Program and mtvU. There were high-profile government officials, creatives and execs, indie-pop duo Matt & Kim, and recent Fulbright fellows. But the mix was mingling over the same misty view of the East River, and in solidarity over a single mission: to promote music as a global force for good.
Hosted by the Honorable Susan Rice, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, and Tom Healy, Chairman of the Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board, the evening was a tribute to everyone involved: the Fulbright Program, the State Department for its long-standing sponsorship of the program, and MTV for its continued support for breaking down barriers and making the world a whole.
MTV President Stephen Friedman was praised for making social awareness central to his career and for expanding the network’s commitment to pro-social endeavors over the past 10 years. In his remarks, Friedman talked about how the Fulbright-mtvU Fellowship perfectly carries the mission of MTV.
“It’s humbling to be recognized for doing what has always been a big part of what this channel was set up to do – not just entertain, but engage our audience on the most important issues,” Friedman said.
When mtvU, MTV’s 24-hour college network, launched and partnered with Fulbright in 2007, the idea was to create a viable way to give college kids a way to use music as a global force for good. Together, they wrought Fulbright-mtvU Fellowships, an academic exchange program established to promote the role of music in mutual understanding, invigorate interest in international education among U.S. college and university students, and further the positive impact of public-private partnerships.
“Music has been the core of our DNA: it’s in our blood in our veins – it’s what we do and reinvent with every generation,” Friedman said. “Music is truly the closest thing we have to an international language. It is the one thing that can bring us together.”
The network has been able to tap into musicians like Matt & Kim, as well as artists including James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem, Jared Leto of 30 Seconds to Mars, Vampire Weekend and Rage Against the Machine, to help judge nominations and handpick extraordinary students.
Through the program, grant recipients have worked on projects across several continents and all kinds of musical genres, including studies on the influence of Bollywood music on underprivileged youth in Mumbai and the impact of local music on new cultural and social identities in post-Apartheid South Africa. Their fieldwork has also illuminated the global power of hip-hop. One student used it has a form of therapy for youth affected by war and AIDS in Uganda, teaching children there how to break dance, create beats and compose rap songs, and another traveled to Senegal to document hip-hop’s role in transforming a new urban African identity, mending local traditions with a modern, global movement.