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U.S. Embassy Brings Jazz Band to Tour Fiji and Tonga
U.S. Ambassador Marie Damour welcomed American jazz group Sounds of A&R (S.O.A.R.) to the South Pacific
April 18, 2023

Suva – Today, U.S. Ambassador Marie Damour welcomed American jazz group Sounds of A&R (S.O.A.R.) to the South Pacific for a performance at Fiji National University’s Music School.  S.O.A.R arrived in Fiji on April 17 and will be touring across Fiji and Tonga through April 26, with public performances and master classes with secondary school and university music students in both countries.U.S. Amb. Damour speaks at the kick off the AMA Jazz Band Tour to the South Pacific AMA's Jazz Band SOAR Preforms at FNU's Nasinu Campus FNU's Students Enjoy AMA's Jazz Band SOAR

S.O.A.R. comes to Fiji and Tonga as a part of the American Music Abroad (AMA) program, which is funded and administered by the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA).

When Ambassador Damour spoke to the audience of university administrators, music instructors, and students at Fiji National University, she explained the importance of their visit by noting that music “sparks innovation to transform our societies, whether that empowers entrepreneurs to create sustainable and inclusive economic growth or helps us find innovative solutions to the climate crisis.  Jazz is much more than music: it is the very essence of democracy.”

The event at Fiji National University was the first stop on their tour and, in addition to remarks, from the Ambassador, S.O.A.R. had a jam session with music students.

Members of the public can hear S.O.A.R. play at a lunchtime concert at the FNPF Food Court tomorrow, Wednesday, April 19 at 12:30 pm.  S.O.A.R will conclude their tour with a free public concert in Nuku’alofa’s Digicel Square in Tonga on April 26 at 5:00pm.

S.O.A.R. is the brainchild of vocalist April May Webb and trumpeter Randall Haywood, who are partners in both music and life and have come together to create a distinct sound with aspects of Contemporary Jazz, Soul, R&B, and Gospel influences in their work.

In 2022, S.O.A.R. was one of ten ensembles selected to represent The United States as U.S. Cultural Ambassadors a part of the American Music Abroad 2022 & 2023 international touring season.  They have also won numerous awards including being named “Best Jazz Group” at the Hot House Jazz Magazine and Jazzmobile 2019 NYC Reader’s Jazz Awards presented at Birdland Jazz Club and winning “Best Message Video” for their music video “The Skin I’m In” at the 38th Annual Songwriters’ Association Competition (SAW) in Washington D.C. in 2022.