Indiana State University Newsroom

Indiana State hosts inaugural International Music and Dance Festival

April 24, 2013

As audience members poured out of University Hall Theatre at Indiana State University following an on-stage festival, they were greeted by several performers they had just witnessed in the show.

Though the festival was officially over, members of Indiana State's African Drumming Troupe resumed playing in the University Hall atrium, not quite ready to end their inaugural performance.

Wabash Valley residents and college students representing 15 cultures from around the world performed on March 23 at the inaugural International Music and Dance Festival hosted by Indiana State and co-sponsored by the Center for Global Engagement and Arts Illiana. Performers danced, played instruments and sang songs common in different parts of the world.

"The performance was basically about the impact of diversity on the community of Terre Haute, and then ISU as a whole," said Kirk Owusu Moore, a sophomore legal studies major who helped organize the African Drumming Troupe. "At ISU, it's bringing people from all walks of life together to achieve a goal."

Several more Indiana State organizations, including the university's Steel Drum Band and students from the Taiwanese Student Association, Chinese Student and Scholar Association and ISU Jordanian group joined in the festivities. Members of the Terre Haute's Korean, Indian, Italian, Latin American, African American and Filipino communities and participants from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology also were among those who participated. Performances ranged from a saxophone solo to a Bollywood dance performance.

"It was very enlightening," said Elonda Ervin, Indiana State's diversity officer who attended the festival. "Just to hear the different types of music, to see the different cultures represented and the performers' joy in sharing their music and art with us was terrific."

While previous community events, such as the International Friendship Program gatherings, have featured cultural acts, the festival was the first time that an event was dedicated specifically to such international performances.

"I thought that an international music and dance festival would be a good way to bring the different cultural groups from the community together for a fun event," said Pat Grigg, who founded the International Friendship Program in the Wabash Valley and helped organize the international festival.

In addition to performing, members of the different organizations worked since last October to organize the event, which facilitated how well the festival went, she added.

"The International Music and Dance Festival was made possible by the teamwork of more than 120 people, of which 105 were performers from Indiana State University; Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology; St. Mary-of-the-Woods College; Purdue and Northwestern universities; University of California, Los Angeles; churches, schools and communities from Indiana and Illinois," Grigg said. "We have achieved our goal with a successful festival, and many of us have made new friends from different countries."

So many people wanted to participate in an international festival that organizers realized they needed auditions to determine what performances would be part of the event.

"There has been an amazing outpour of positive support from community members," said Zachariah Mathew, associate director of the Center for Global Engagement who helped organize the festival. "We set the bar high, and it was amazing to work with Arts Illiana and community members."

Performers talked with each other backstage in-between acts, with some participants enjoying the other acts as they were getting ready to go on, said Sherri Wright, regional services coordinator with Arts Illiana.

"I felt like there was this outpouring of heart and soul, and it doesn't matter where you come from, that's what we all have, hearts and souls," Wright said. "That was real evident. When you were sitting in the audience, you felt that."

The Indiana State Steel Drum Band performed first, then remained in the background during the event, playing in between acts as stagehands readied for the next performers.

"I am so proud of our students, the community and our Center for Global Engagement. The festival presented the richness of many of the cultures that make up the ISU community," Indiana State Provost Jack Maynard said. "The wide age range of people who participated, from college students to Wabash Valley residents young and old, shows that the festival appealed to a lot of people and I hope it is the beginning of an annual event."

Some audience members stayed to listen to the African Dance Troupe in University Hall for about a half-hour afterward, which was a pleasant surprise to Jon Robeson, executive director of Arts Illiana. The festival was a terrific example of how numerous organizations partnered to act as a bridge between local universities and people to bring the community together, he said.

"This has always been a community where we may not be resource-rich in terms of money, but we have wonderful people here," Robeson added. "The more we can talk to each other and enjoy each other and mobilize to work on different things together, we'll be able to accomplish much more."

Photo: (ISU/Sam Barnes)A group of performers at the inaugural International Music and Dance Festival, which was hosted at Indiana State University. The university's Center for Global Engagement and Arts Illiana co-sponsored the event.

Photo: (Submitted photo)Performers onstage at the conclusion of the International Music and Dance Festival as Zachariah Mathew, associate director of the Center for Global Engagement at Indiana State University, addresses the crowd.

Photo: (ISU/Sam Barnes)Performers at the International Music and Dance Festival perform a Bollywood dance routine. More than one dozen cultures were represented by the performances at the festival, which included four generations of performers.

Photo: (ISU/Sam Barnes)A group of Indiana State University students perform at the International Music and Dance Festival. The event featured performers from Indiana State and Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, along with Wabash Valley residents.

Contact: Zachariah Mathew, associate director, Center for Global Engagement, Indiana State University, 812-237-2439 or

Writer: Austin Arceo, assistant director of media relations, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3790 or