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President of Mongolia Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj to Visit Philadelphia at the Invitation of The Philadelphia Orchestra

September 12, 2016

Mongolia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Tsend Munkh-Orgil, Will Join in this Historic Visit to Philadelphia—Possibly the First of Its Kind to Be Hosted by an Arts Organization

(Philadelphia, September 12, 2016)—On Friday, September 23, His Excellency Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj, President of Mongolia, will come to Philadelphia at the invitation of Allison Vulgamore, president and CEO of The Philadelphia Orchestra. President Elbegdorj will travel to Philadelphia for a day-long visit on Friday, September 23, following the completion of his work at the United Nations General Assembly, and just before returning home to Mongolia. This marks a rare visit by a democratically elected leader of a crucial U.S. ally to the City of Philadelphia.

“We were delighted that President Elbegdorj accepted our invitation,” said Vulgamore, “and are eager to work directly with President Elbegdorj and Minister Munkh-Orgil. All of us with The Philadelphia Orchestra believe deeply and whole-heartedly in the power of people-to-people diplomacy, and we are excited about the new artistic and cultural adventure that awaits us in Mongolia in 2017. I extend our thanks to Congressman Brendan Boyle of the Foreign Affairs Committee for his support of our new venture.”

“Philadelphia is a world-class city, rich in culture and bustling with creativity. With our recent designation as the Nation’s first UNESCO World Heritage City, the host of the historic 2016 Democratic National Convention, and the 2015 Papal Visit during World Meeting of Families – the global spotlight continues to shine on the City of Brotherly Love,” said Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney. “We are proud to have The Philadelphia Orchestra serve as ambassadors of our City during their annual international tour and are honored to welcome President Elbegdorj and the Mongolian delegation to Philadelphia. This visit marks a significant moment in cross-cultural affairs and demonstrates Philadelphia’s role as a global destination.”

This day-long visit, which marks a significant step forward in U.S.-Mongolia bilateral relations, will celebrate and anticipate The Philadelphia Orchestra’s planned trip to Mongolia for two concerts in the capital city of Ulaanbaatar in June as part of the Orchestra’s 2017 Asia Tour and Residency. The Orchestra’s presence in Mongolia will make history as the largest non-military/non-government American delegation to visit Mongolia in over 30 years of bilateral relations between the two countries.

Vulgamore extended the invitation on behalf of The Philadelphia Orchestra, and it is perhaps the first time that the elected leader of a foreign country will visit a U.S. city at the exclusive invitation of an arts organization. The visit illustrates the growing influence of music as a powerful instrument of cultural diplomacy and increased cross-cultural understanding, as well as the broadening recognition of The Philadelphia Orchestra’s world-leading and sustained commitment to people-to-people diplomacy, globally representing the City of Philadelphia, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and the U.S.

This is the second time Allison Vulgamore has played a key role in facilitating the visit of a world leader to Philadelphia: In 2015 she was a member of the Philadelphia Papal Delegation, visiting the Vatican with other Philadelphia leaders to deliver the formal invitation to the city. Additionally, she is the American signatory to Memoranda of Understanding with Beijing’s National Centre for the Performing Arts, the Shanghai Media Group, the Shanghai Oriental Art Center, and the Capital Province of Ulaan Baatar of the Republic of Mongolia, arranging for Philadelphia Orchestra performances, residency activities, and cultural exchange. While on overseas tours with the Orchestra, she is often invited to address groups of arts and business leaders, sharing insights from a career in arts management.

At various events on September 23 (the schedule is separately attached), participation is expected from Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, Lieutenant Governor Mike Stack, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, members of the U.S. Congressional delegation from Pennsylvania, as well as state elected officials from Philadelphia. President Elbegdorj will attend a welcome ceremony at City Hall, a luncheon at the Kimmel Center, and The Philadelphia Orchestra’s afternoon concert, while also spending time with representatives from the University of Pennsylvania’s American Center of Mongolian Studies, as well as the National Park Service.

The Philadelphia Orchestra is delighted to share this news shortly after Global Philadelphia celebrated Philadelphia’s induction as a World Heritage City. Philadelphia is the first U.S. city to earn this distinguished designation, one that it shares with four World Heritage sites in Mongolia.

Mongolia’s Importance on the World Stage
In 2017, Mongolia will celebrate its 30th year of official bilateral, diplomatic relations with the United States. This close relationship has grown and expanded over the last three decades, and Mongolian officials often refer to the U.S. as Mongolia’s “third neighbor."

Mongolia currently sustains one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, boasting an 11% increase in GDP (Gross Domestic Product) last year. It is successfully attracting outside interest from businesses headquartered in many of the world’s most sophisticated democratic nations.

Geographically, Mongolia is situated between Russia and China.  The second-largest landlocked nation in the world, and a former Soviet satellite, Mongolia began its transition away from communism to democracy in 1990, officially declaring independence on February 13, 1992. Despite sitting between two non-democratic world powers, Mongolia has maintained its identity as a nation governed by democracy. The first election victories for non-communist parties were in 1993 (presidential election) and 1996 (parliamentary election).  They have held six presidential and seven parliamentary elections since declaring independence. In late June 2016, the most recent uncontested “free and fair” parliamentary elections were held, a hallmark of the country’s commitment to democracy.

The Philadelphia Orchestra’s Legacy of Cultural Diplomacy
As one of the most traveled American orchestras, The Philadelphia Orchestra is a global ambassador for the City of Philadelphia, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and the United States of America. It is an organization that continues to help shape its evolving identify through an unrivaled commitment to cultural exchange at home and abroad. The types of cultural exchange and diplomatic activities that comprise its program during overseas touring, affectionately referred to as “staying and playing,” includes performances at community festivals; free “pop-up” concerts; master classes; lectures; and musician-led visits to hospitals, churches, and other local institutions.

Since President Richard Nixon asked the Orchestra to become the first American orchestra to visit China in 1973, The Philadelphia Orchestra has been honored to serve as the premier cultural ambassador of the United States. This innovative Orchestra was also the first U.S. orchestra to perform in Vietnam, and has a legacy of firsts that includes the first commercially sponsored radio broadcast, the first national TV broadcast, and the first major American orchestra to give a live cybercast of a concert on the internet.

With a deep legacy and proud history of touring internationally and representing the U.S. abroad, the Orchestra began a dedicated effort to develop a cultural exchange program with China in 2010. Over five years later, it has a renowned, evidence-based program of cultural diplomacy increasing in impact each tour.

One of the most visible examples of the Orchestra’s recent work as the premier cultural ambassador on behalf of its city, state, and country took place last September when the Vatican requested The Philadelphia Orchestra play two concerts for His Holiness Pope Francis during the Philadelphia leg of his historic visit to the U.S., drawing over 1 million attendees.

2016 has been pivotal as the Orchestra celebrates the end of its first five-year commitment in China and begins a new commitment for the next five years, the first of which will include its history-making visit to Mongolia as part of its 2017 Asia Tour and Residency in late May and June.

The Philadelphia Orchestra is committed to innovation and artistic excellence, including the embrace of new technology tools and platforms that enable it to share its love for the universal art of music-making with increasingly diverse, yet connected, audiences, regardless of the geographic distance, cultural differences, or language barriers between them. Its conscientious cultivation of a rich and meaningful program of cultural diplomatic engagement sets the Orchestra apart from its other internationally-traveled peers.


Brian Goldthorpe          

Patricia O’Kelly

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