At Clayton State University, educating the community about the performing arts reaches far beyond campus grounds. 

The school’s second annual Summer World Music Festival, which features weekly a different artist or performing group from around the globe, has returned this year to expose students and families to a range of international sounds and cultures.

Melanie Darby, education manager at Spivey Hall, which hosts the concert series thorugh June and July, said the program encourages people to “start thinking beyond the borders of their hometown.” 

“We want them to think about what’s out there, and how it might be possible to experience this in the country of its origin,” Ms. Darby told Global Atlanta, regarding the festival’s culturally diverse lineup which includes musical and choreographic styles from Japan and Africa to Latin America

“We would like to see an audience come in and find their ‘Spivey experience’,” she added.

Part of the concert experience involves audience interaction in and around Spivey Hall, Ms. Darby explained. For example, dancers in the Japanese Women’s Garden Club, who performed last week, taught audience members traditional Japanese dance motions from the stage and displayed valuable cultural items in the lobby. Consul General Kazuo Sunaga’s wife was among the performers.  

Outside the concert hall, a new mobile application designed by the Clayton State biology department guided concert-goers through the pathways of the Piedmont to learn about the lush vegetation and wildlife that inhabit the school’s backyard. 

“People come to Clayton State University and their jaws drop at how beautiful this place is and how natural it is,” Ms. Darby said. “We want them to understand that we have a lot to offer the community and that they are welcome here.”

On Wednesday, July 15, 9 String Theory took a crowd of about 200 on a musical tour of Europe through the history of the guitar. The duo includes classical guitarist John Huston and Angelina Galashenkova-Reed, a virtuoso on the Russian domra, a round-backed, three-stringed instrument resembling a lute that hearkens back to the early days when roving gypsies entertained the rulers of her homeland.  

With the hall’s huge pipe organ as a backdrop, the performance started with a look at the influence of the Muslim Moors on the guitar rhythms and phrasing in the southern Spanish region of Andalucia, where they brought the minor scales of the Indian subcontinent through global trade routes. 

Spain’s flamenco guitarists “can sometimes sound like gypsies from North Africa playing instruments from the Middle East,” Mr. Huston told the crowd, challenging them to consider what identifies musical styles as belonging to a specific region. 

Heading east, the “Raven Dance” showcased the asymmetrical rhythms of Turkish music, and later, Mr. Huston urged listeners to “fill in  your own sad story” during a dirge from Russia.

The mood perked back up with a gypsy dance that had the crowd clapping along with its dynamic tempos, and the ultimately concert ended in across the Pond, where a tune composed by George Gershwin, a Russian Jew who emigrated to America, showed that how European harmonies blended with African rhythms in the New World to create signature sounds like ragtime and Appalachian bluegrass.  

The final concert of the Spivey Hall Summer World Music Festival on July 22 will feature Ustad Shafaat Khan who is returning this year on the Indian sitar. 

To find out more about the concert series, visit

With reporting by Trevor Williams