Washington, D.C., April 23, 2009 - "Willis Conover Day" is April 25
under a congressional proclamation that honors the legendary Voice of
America (VOA) jazz program host who introduced America's musicians to
listeners behind the Iron Curtain and around the world.
Conover will be honored during the "Big Band Jam" on the National
Mall. The congressional resolution, sponsored by Rep. John B. Larson,
D-Conn., recognizes VOA and Conover for their "joint contribution
toward spreading the language of jazz and American cultural diplomacy
around the world over a span of more than 35 years."
Born in Buffalo, N.Y., in 1920, Conover joined the VOA in 1955,
hosting the first in a series of jazz programs that ultimately claimed
millions of listeners round the world.
"At the height of his career, [Conover] was producing 17 shows per
week, including Music USA, Jazz; Music USA, Standards; Music with
Friends, and Willis Conover's House of Sounds. These programs included
interviews with popular artists including Duke Ellington, Ella
Fitzgerald, Billie Holliday, Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie and many,
many more," said John Stevenson, chief of VOA English.
"Every emotion - love, anger, joy, sadness - can be communicated
with the vitality and spirit that characterize jazz," Conover once
said. He died in 1996.
"People used to say that Willis Conover single-handedly felled the
Iron Curtain," said Harry Schnipper, major organizer of the "Big Band
Jam." The jam helps educate students about America's jazz heritage and
brings jazz bands to Washington, D.C.
The Voice of America, which first went on the air in 1942, is a
multimedia international broadcasting service funded by the U.S.
Government through the Broadcasting Board of Governors. VOA broadcasts
approximately 1,500 hours of news, information, educational, and
cultural programming every week to an estimated worldwide audience of
more than 134 million people. Programs are produced in 45
For more information, please call VOA Public Relations at (202)
203-4959, or e-mail