WASHINGTON, D.C. (MuseWire) – The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs announced today the 2011 spring tour schedule for The Rhythm Road: American Music Abroad program in partnership with Jazz at Lincoln Center. Using music and culture as diplomatic tools to bring people together and foster greater understanding, The Rhythm Road: American Music Abroad program is the 21st century version of the Jazz Ambassadors program that began in the 1950s and featured jazz greats Dizzy Gillespie, Louis Armstrong, and Dave Brubeck.

To date, 150 musicians from 39 ensembles have toured with The Rhythm Road: American Music Abroad program visiting more than 100 countries on five continents. The late summer and fall tours will be announced later this year.

Oscar Williams, Jr. and the Band of Life, a gospel group from St. Louis, Missouri, will travel May 16-June 16 to five countries in Central and South America. In addition, beginning May 30, the Smithdale, Mississippi-based Melvin Williams Group, also a gospel ensemble, will travel to Europe and Asia for a month-long tour. While on tour, these American musicians will conduct public concerts, master classes, lecture demonstrations, workshops, jam sessions, and collaborations with local musicians and communities.

This season’s 10 bands were selected from a pool of more than 100 applicants and will travel to more than 40 countries during month-long tours. Exact tour dates and locations are as follows:

Oscar Williams Jr. and the Band of Life will tour Colombia (May 16 – May 21), Argentina (May 22 – May 28), Chile (May 29 – June 4), Ecuador (June 5 – June 10), and Guatemala (June 11 – June 16). Oscar Williams Jr. and the Band of Life is an award-winning gospel ensemble with a spiritually refreshing sound that uplifts and intrigues audiences worldwide.

The Melvin Williams Group will tour Russia (May 30 – June 13), Azerbaijan (June 14 – 20), Turkmenistan (June 21 – 26) and Georgia (June 26 – 30). The Melvin Williams Group creates a raw and high-energy sound that is uplifting and inspiring, bridging the gap between traditional and contemporary gospel music.

The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs promotes international mutual understanding through a range of academic, cultural, professional, and sports exchange programs. The Bureau’s exchanges engage youth, students, educators, artists, athletes, and emerging leaders in many fields in the United States and in more than 160 countries. Alumni of the Bureau’s exchanges comprise over one million people around the world, including more than 50 Nobel Laureates and more than 320 current or former heads of state and government.

For more information visit www.exchanges.state.gov/cultural/rhythm.html and www.jalc.org/TheRoad .