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John Edward Hasse, Ph.D

Curator of American Music, Smithsonian Institution; Acclaimed Author, Beyond Category: The Life and Genius of Duke Ellington

Music historian, musician, award-winning author and record producer, John Edward Hasse has served as curator of American music at the Smithsonian Institution. He is the editor of Ragtime: Its History, Composers and Music, and coeditor of Discourse in Ethnomusicology.

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Travels From: Virginia | Fee Range: $10,000 - $15,000

Speech Topics

At first glance, jazz might seem an odd place to look for secrets of good leadership.  But jazz masters such as Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, and Wynton Marsalis have been among our nation’s most consistently daring, creative, and innovative professionals.  They thought “outside the box” and mastered the art of creative collaboration long before it became the buzz in boardrooms.

Dr. John Edward Hasse studied business at The Wharton School and worked in marketing management for Procter & Gamble, and has led a number of endeavors for the Smithsonian Institution.  He is passionate about music and leadership.

In this lively and insightful presentation, Dr. Hasse distills the wisdom and triumphs of the jazz masters into eight powerful lessons, including: Listen closely, Find your own sound, Find and nurture great talent, Dance with your audience, Remain fresh. . .innovate, Master the moment. . . improvise, Collaborate creatively, and Jam.

Hasse shows audiences how the collaborative nature of jazz provides leaders of every stripe with fresh sources of inspiration, innovative ideas, and practical advice for fully engaging and reinvigorating their leadership.

Using video clips and live demonstrations at the piano, Hasse delivers a fast-paced presentation that aims to be intellectually engaging, entertaining, and inspiring.

To say ‘None of us is as smart as all of us’ underscores the key role collaboration can play in achieving success. Music is a field where creative collaboration has produced one brilliant result after another. Creating ‘music’ together can spur innovative ideas among diverse teams and individuals, and teach the skills necessary to succeed—creativity, teamwork, accountability, and problem-solving.

In this presentation, Dr. John Edward Hasse, Curator Emeritus of Music at the Smithsonian Institution, reveals the secrets of successful collaboration in five key lessons drawn from music: Listen closely, Trust, Tune up, Harmonize, Relish Co-opetition, and be sure to Jam and Riff. Using examples ranging from George Gershwin to Duke Ellington, from the Beatles to Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga, Dr. Hasse looks at how these artists worked as teams to negotiate their creative differences and to spark new ideas.

This fresh, inspiring presentation is a must-see, illustrated with video clips and live demonstrations at the piano.

Jazz and baseball?  At first glance, that sounds like pairing God and gambling. . .or reggae and Roosevelt.  What’s their connection?

Their connections run deep.  The very word jazz may owe its origins to baseball, for the first documented use of the word jazz, meaning a kind of pep, occurred in a 1912 Los Angeles Times article on baseball.

Both baseball and jazz use swing as a noun and a verb, and in both fields, swing involves time and timing.  In both fields we talk of players and playing—playing ball, playing jazz.  Both were born in the United States and stand throughout the world as American symbols.  Both require players with years of preparation, frequent practice, teamwork, motor memory, and a high level of skill.  Both jazz musicians and baseball players strive for a perfect balance between disciplined practice and spontaneity, between the prescribed and the improvised.

Louis Armstrong sponsored a baseball team. Ella Fitzgerald hung out with the Dodgers.  During the swing era, many big bands formed baseball teams—Benny Goodman, Count Basie, Tommy Dorsey, Duke Ellington, etc.  And jazz musicians recorded numerous songs about baseball, from Take Me Out to the Ball Game and Baseball Boogie to Did You See Jackie Robinson Hit That Ball?.

In this lively presentation, you’ll encounter one surprising connection after another between two of America’s greatest pursuits—jazz and baseball.

As clean air and water are to the human body, art is to the human spirit.  Art feeds our souls, expresses our creativity, stimulates our imaginations, and inspires us to reach for excellence.  The arts help us accept and bridge our differences, give people a voice, make room for everyone, spur creativity, and get us through tough times.

In this stimulating presentation, Dr. John Edward Hasse of the Smithsonian Institution lays out an invigorating and compelling case for why, more than ever before, we need the arts in our lives.  And, if the arts are vital to the lives of adults, why they are especially critical to teaching our children.  If the arts are vital to adults, they are especially critical to shaping our children.

And when it comes to music, science proves that listening to music—and especially making music—lights up the brain.

Using video clips and examples of stellar creative artists, and playing a piano solo that never fails to move his audiences, Hasse’s invigorating talk seeks to engage, inspire, and affirm why we need the arts more than ever.


One of America’s foremost music historian-educators, Dr. John Edward Hasse helps audiences understand the power music has to move and inspire us to greater heights.

John Edward Hasse is a museum curator, author, speaker, and leader in his field. For 33 years, he served as Curator of American Music at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History, where he curated exhibitions on Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, and Ray Charles, and founded the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra and Jazz Appreciation Month, now celebrated in all 50 states and in 40 countries. He is also a former Chairman of Smithsonian Music. Recently, he transitioned from Curator to Curator Emeritus—a lifetime honor—at the Smithsonian.

Active in cultural diplomacy for the US State Department, Hasse has lectured on leadership, the arts, and music in 20 countries on six continents. His keynote addresses and lectures appeal to a very broad range of audiences. He has spoken at Harvard University, UCLA and Georgetown University. The Kennedy Center, the Brooklyn Philharmonic, and the Chicago Humanities Festival. The Cleveland Clinic, the American Academy of Nursing, Miami Children’s Hospital, and the Health Careers Foundation. State Farm, New York Life, and the World Bank. Leadership Florida and the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company. And US embassies and consulates in Berlin, Madrid, Prague, Budapest, Buenos Aires, Cairo, Nairobi, and Johannesburg.

He is author of an acclaimed biography, Beyond Category: The Life and Genius of Duke Ellington, with a Foreword by Wynton Marsalis, and editor of Jazz: The First Century, with Forewords by Quincy Jones and Tony Bennett. Hasse is co-author of Discover Jazz and co-producer/co-author of the Jazz: The Smithsonian Anthology. He has contributed to The Washington Post and eight encyclopedias, and writes on music regularly for The Wall Street Journal.

As an expert on American music, he has been interviewed in The New York Times, on CBS Sunday Morning, NPR, PBS, CNN, and many other news outlets.

He earned a B.A. Cum Laude from Carleton College and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from Indiana University, two Honorary Doctorates, and a Certificate in Business Administration from The Wharton School. He formerly worked in marketing management at Procter & Gamble.

Hasse has received two Grammy Award nominations and two ASCAP Deems Taylor Awards for excellence in writing about music. Berklee College named him their Herb Alpert Scholar-in-Residence for 2017 and 2018, and the Jazz Educators Network named him a “Legend of Jazz Education.”


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