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More than Meets the Eye


Eric Felten

Eric Felten

“Look for the bare necessities, the simple bare necessities, forget about your worries and your strife, I mean the bare necessities, Old Mother Nature’s recipes, that brings the bare necessities of life.” The recorded voice of Louis Armstrong singing these well-known lyrics from the song Bare Necessities will never get old. However, on March 7, 2012 another man sang his own rendition of the famous song at VOA’s 70th anniversary event, acknowledging “It was a bit daunting to come out and follow Louis Armstrong.” VOA’s On the Line host Eric Felten stood on stage with his jazz orchestra in a performance that brought jazz music briefly back to the spotlight.


The program called for a mix of live and produced music. This combination allowed Felten to truly enjoy the experience as the provider of live jazz entertainment for the event, “great fun and doubly fun to be part of what has been one of VOA’s signature accomplishments over the years, which is jazz.”


Eric Felten and his Jazz Orchestra have been together since 1991 and their resume boasts an impressive series of highlights. In 2001, they completed an hour-long PBS special, Big Band Sound of World War II. The program has been seen by over 12 million viewers and PBS considers Felten a “renowned crooner and bandleader.” They have played at several inaugural events & bashes for the Obama and second Bush administrations. In addition, they play several times a year at Blues Alley, a Washington, D.C jazz landmark, including an annual July 4th World War II Big Band concert.


Growing up in Phoenix, Felten was surrounded by jazz musicians everywhere he looked. His father and great aunt were jazz musicians, but it was his grandfather who ultimately helped ignite Felten’s passion for jazz music. His grandfather taught him to play the trombone at age nine and he thus joined the long family tradition of becoming a jazz musician. Felten earned an undergraduate degree in philosophy at Arizona State and completed a master’s in public administration at the Harvard Kennedy School.


An accomplished writer as well as musician and TV host, Felten has published three books: Loyalty: The Vexing Virtue; The Ruling Class: Inside the Imperial Congress; and How’s Your Drink?: Cocktails, Culture, and the Art of Drinking Well. Within these three books Felten covers three completely different subjects, demonstrating his flexibility as a writer and the diversity of his interests. In addition, he writes a regular postmodern culture column for the Wall Street Journal. At Voice of America, Felten embarks on a debate journey as a program host of the TV show On the Line. He brings in guests from around the world to give international affairs topics “the debate they deserve.”


Sitting across from Eric Felten, you notice unpacked boxes and a rather bare office – showing where his priorities lie within his extremely busy schedule. Rarely idle, between a Wall Street Journal column, VOA’s On the Line, writing books, and heading up a Jazz Orchestra, Felten clearly excels at multi-tasking and managing his time productively. It’s truly inspiring to hear his story as he offered us a glimpse into his successful career. As Thomas Jefferson once said, “Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” Eric Felten certainly fits that mold.

For more information on Eric Felten and his work visit his website.

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