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America's Musical Journey

America’s Musical Journey


When was the last time a movie made you want to dance in your seat? Or inspired you to travel? America’s Musical Journey, a foot-stomping, high-flying, body-bending, hands-clapping, back-flipping, soul-lifting new film, celebrates the USA’s trailblazing spirit, dynamic diversity and enormous musical contributions — jazz, blues, country, hip-hop and rock — that were born and nurtured here, then shared with the world. Music is the universal human language that brings us together, touches all hearts, elicits emotions. Narrated by Academy Award-winning actor Morgan Freeman, the 40-minute film is also a travelogue, its cinematography swooping and soaring and sliding through glittering cities and glorious countrysides, fancy hotspots and down-home cool digs. Premiering on February 15, 2018 at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC, with a second premiere on February 16 at its National Museum of American History, America’s Musical Journey will then roll out to IMAX and giant-screen theaters in the USA and around the globe. Take a look:

“The movie starts with a simple idea that Americans like to take risks because we’re a nation of immigrants,” explains film director Greg MacGillivray. “Out of that collision of cultures comes new ideas and art forms. It’s in our nature to challenge the status quo…the thrill of experimentation and uncertainty will keep you striving for success.” Leading the film from coast to coast is Grammy-nominated songwriter, musician and singer Aloe Blacc, whose parents were Panamanian immigrants. “Our forefathers had the foresight to give us freedom of expression — to think what we want and to say what we want. To be able to be fully creative,” he says.

Produced by MacGillivray Freeman Films in association with Brand USA (the nonprofit destination organization that markets USA tourism to the rest of the world), along with sponsors Expedia and Air Canada, America’s Musical Journey touches upon the roots — sometimes tumultuous, sometimes transcendent — of our musical expressiveness, including songs brought here by enslaved Africans, which were transformed into the beginnings of gospel, jazz and blues. It is a fast-paced, cross-country romp from New York to Nashville, Memphis, New Orleans, Chicago, Miami, Detroit, Los Angeles, Austin, Seattle and other locales to spotlight some of their intrinsic vibes and vibrant personalities. For instance, the influential legacy of jazz artist Louis Armstrong (trumpeter, composer and singer) is woven like a silver thread through the fabric of this movie, which showcases Armstrong’s epic song “What a Wonderful World” — its lyrics doing double-duty here as a rallying reminder to rejoice in the wanderlust that global travelers hold dear.

 “I had already traveled to all the cities in the film,” says Blacc. “But I hadn’t been to all of the featured locations. Not to Sun Studio in Memphis [which recorded such greats as Elvis Presley, B.B. King, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis and a keyboard-long list of other movers and shakers]. Not to Nashville’s Country Music Hall of Fame. I had never been to Louis Armstrong’s home and museum, where I got to play his piano. Filming this movie brought me to those places.” He visited Graceland, the home of rock ‘n’ roll innovator Elvis Presley, in Memphis, too. “My biggest surprise while making this film? Learning things about the roots of American music,” says Blacc. “For example, the great migration of African-Americans from the South to the North — bringing culture, food and especially music — and how that music changed and grew throughout the country and then throughout the world.”

“Because of this film, I also met Gloria and Emilio Estefan,” says Blacc, who relished a lesson in Latin beats. “They listened to my new song, ‘My Story,’ and they were super inspiring in helping me to arrange the song in a new way, also suggesting that I swap the order of the lyrics, because Gloria especially liked some words and thought they should be moved up.” This collaboration is indicative of the creative force that music instills.

Blacc sat down with jazz legend Ramsey Lewis in Chicago, too. The film’s soundtrack also includes his “Wake Me Up” and “I Need a Dollar,” as well as classics, such as Elvis Presley’s “Jailhouse Rock.”

“I really hope the film’s audience wants to explore more music, listen to more live music, dance, learn an instrument, teach others how to play an instrument, sing,” says Blacc. “Get involved in music in whatever way they can.”

“People worldwide have a connection to the USA through music,” says Tom Garzilli, chief marketing officer of Brand USA. “Our primary job is to inspire, invite and welcome visitors to this country by being storytellers. What has been a pleasant result of people seeing the film is how emotionally connected they are to the messaging. As we screened it for stakeholders and others, they came out of it with an emotional sense of pride in America. The world has come to the USA for years and brought with them their culture and food; we’ve sent back our American music to the world.” For more info:

With IMAX’s 12-channel stereo sound and 3D-glasses viewing, America’s Musical Journey aims to be an immersive experience, featuring Bandaloop aerialists who perform graceful sky twirls off the sides of buildings, sexy salsa dancers and a rousing gospel choir. Amen.

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