Carolina trip yields music, culture and 3 credits

The Spoleto Festival is held every summer in Charleston South Carolina.

By Danielle Phillips

For seven years one professor has been giving an enlightening experience to students outside the classroom, exactly 731 miles away from any Rider classroom.

Dr. Jack Sullivan, of American Studies, leads a group of 15 students from both the Lawrenceville and Princeton campuses on an eight-day trip to the Spoleto Festival in Charleston, South Carolina.

There, students get exposed to the richness and diversity of American culture. While earning three credits, they get the opportunity to experience the vibrant offerings of a variety of music including jazz, opera, poetry and musical theater, among others.

“I look forward to turning the students on to music they have never experienced before,” said Sullivan, who has been attending the festival since the late ’80s. “It really unites the campuses. Together, they experience culture and music.”

Each spring, the festival fills Charleston historic theaters, churches and outdoor spaces with over 120 performances by renowned artists as well as emerging performers in a variety of disciplines. It originally began as a festival in Spoleto, Italy and relocated to Charleston in 1977.

The students in attendance can gain backstage access, where they get to meet the press and musicians. Writers for opera magazines and other musical publications hold lectures and performances for emerging artists to hear.

“Students visit artists in their homes, attend jam sessions, sing and play on celebrated stages, and enter into the multi-ethnic street life of musical communities,” Sullivan said. “They learn first-hand about the culture, coverage, and politics of the classical music business.”

The Westminster students who attend also get in the act themselves and perform in musical choral and orchestral events.

The academic aspect of the trip comes into play when students are required to complete coursework that includes writing reviews and papers about their experience.

“The Spoleto trip was amazing,” said senior Danielle DeBue who attended two years ago. “We went to so many musical productions, as well as a few operas.

“Charleston is a beautiful city and we had the opportunity to learn a little about its history while we were there.”

Sullivan believes the trip truly transforms people’s view of opera, jazz and different types of music.

It becomes a way of uniting the campuses, which for the professor, is the most rewarding part of the South Carolina journey. But he also enjoys the Southern food and hospitality. Students not only get to sample the fan fare, they also write papers about it.

“Dr. Sullivan is very keen on getting the whole cultural experience, so we tried all sorts of different Southern foods,” DeBue said. “We went to some nice restaurants, but we also had opportunity to try true Southern food at little local places. The entire trip was very memorable.”

With another summer quickly approaching, Sullivan is still looking for students interested to attend the rewarding Spoleto experience.

“Having musical talent is not a prerequisite for these courses,” Sullivan said. “Having an adventurous palate absolutely is.”

Anyone interested about the Spoleto trip this summer can contact Sullivan at or call x. 5573.

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