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Hancock rouses Jazz Network crowd

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The legendary musician delivered an inspiring keynote address at the national conference, which continues in San Diego through Saturday

Lamenting the decline in arts funding at U.S. public schools as “a national disgrace,” music legend Herbie Hancock electrified a capacity audience of more than 1,600 during his keynote address Thursday at the 6th annual National Jazz Education Network conference

“Can you even imagine our existence without the arts?” he asked during his speech at downtown’s Manchester Grand Hyatt, where the JEN conference concludes Saturday. “The (result) would be a bleak, soulless earth, struggling to communicate.”

An Oscar-winning composer and 14-time Grammy-winner, Hancock rose to prominence in the 1960s as the pianist in the Miles Davis Quintet. In the early 1970s, he became an internationally acclaimed band leader in his own right. A 2013 Kennedy Center honoree, he is the Chairman of UCLA’s Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz. The founder of the International Committee of Artists for Peace, Hancock is also an honorary Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. In that capacity he three years ago created International Jazz Day, held on April 30, which is celebrated in 197 countries around the world.

“Cultural diplomacy (and) using jazz to solve problems and build bridges between disparate people is not a new idea," he said, “but it's time has come."

Hancock's wide-ranging remarks quoted both the Italian philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau and pioneering San Diego medical researcher Jonas Salk. He also stressed the importance of creativity and thinking outside of the box, while urging music educators to update their teaching methods to better connect with a young, multi-tasking generation.

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