Why Cultural Diplomacy Is More Relevant—And More Challenging—Than Ever


  • William Harvey Universidad Panamericana
  • Fernanda Villalvazo Escuela Superior de Música, Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes y Literatura




cultural diplomacy, indigenous culture, violin, pandemic art, Rarámuri, Sierra Tarahumara


The authors, both violinists and founders of cultural diplomacy organizations, relate the challenges of conducting meaningful cultural diplomacy during a pandemic. Their work included video collaborations bringing together musicians from North America, Europe, Africa, and Asia; in-person work in the remote Sierra Tarahumara mountains of northern Mexico; and a unique project to promote the sustained livelihood and increased access of freedom and security of 326 Afghan musicians.

Author Biographies

William Harvey, Universidad Panamericana

The first American concertmaster of Mexico’s premier orchestra, the Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional, violinist, composer, conductor, and educator William Harvey has forged a unique international career that has taken him from Carnegie Hall to the jungles of Papua New Guinea to the streets of Kabul. From 2010 to 2014, he taught violin and conducted the orchestra at Afghanistan National Institute of Music on Afghan national television, for President Karzai, and on tour to sold-out audiences at Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center. He has served as concertmaster of OSSLA (Mexico), Orquesta Sinfónica de la UNSJ (Argentina), and the Spokane Symphony (USA), as well as guest faculty at Indiana University String Academy, Myanmar Music Festival, and Mehli Mehta Music Foundation (at the invitation of Zubin Mehta). He holds a Masters’ from the Juilliard School and Bachelors’ from Indiana University and has performed concerti with orchestras in the USA, the Philippines, Mexico, and Argentina. His recording of the Violin Concerto by Hector Infanzón was nominated in both classical music categories at the 2021 Latin Grammys. His compositions have received over a hundred performances worldwide, and as a conductor he has led youth orchestras in the USA, Mexico, Argentina, Zimbabwe, and Qatar, among others. As the founder and director of the non-profit Cultures in Harmony, he conducted nearly 40 cultural diplomacy projects in 16 countries from Pakistan to Cameroon. In 2016, he traveled to every US state for one week for Cultures in Harmony’s “What is American culture?” project, soliciting answers to that question in the form of concerts, seminars, workshops, video interviews, and social media updates. Born in 1982 in Flint, Michigan, USA, William now resides in Mexico City, where he teaches at the Universidad Panamericana.

Fernanda Villalvazo, Escuela Superior de Música, Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes y Literatura

Originally from Mexico City, the violinist and instrumental pedagogue Fernanda Villalvazo graduated with honors from the INBA School of Music, the Evaristo Felice dall’Abaco di Verona Conservatory in Italy and the Universität Mozarteum Salzburg. She is the founder of the Association Péepem Art, which promotes cultural exchange between Austria and Mexico; and ArtisTeach, a pioneering project to open spaces for professional training and promote instrumental pedagogy in Mexico and Latin America as a branch of studies. In the last 12 years she developed her musical career in Europe performing concerts in Austria, Germany, Italy, Romania, Greece, Algeria, and Tunisia. She is currently a professor at the American School Foundation and the Escuela Superior de Música, both in Mexico City.






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