During Lotus Blossoms outreach in the spring, and even on the Festival weekend, we try to arrange occasions where our visiting artists meet young people in the community. {Pictured above: members of the Nigerian band Etran Finatawa with Indiana University Wells Scholars and other Honors College students, 2008.}

One of these friendly cultural exchanges took place during this year’s Lotus World Music and Arts Festival, when the Nordic group Frigg had lunch with more than 25 students from Indiana University’s Wells Scholars Program and Hutton Honors College. “Lotus lunches” at Harlos House (home of the Wells Scholars Program) and the Honors College have been happening since 2002, when the Swedish trio Väsen talked to students about their cultural and musical traditions, and the music scene in Europe. “Väsen played some of their music, too,” recalls Charlene Brown, associate director of the Wells Scholars Program and director of extracurricular programming for the Honors College.


When Frigg [pictured at left, on stage at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater] came to lunch last September, Brown says, “The conversation touched on musical styles, music education, balancing family life with work as a musician, the role of music in creating and sustaining communities, the Lotus phenomenon and experience, and more. The band performed some of their compositions in different styles; they talked about their distinctive instruments, how they came to play them, and the things that brought them together as a band.”

Arranging these visits means working with tight travel and Festival schedules. “There are times when we don’t know until the last moment whether a group’s itinerary will allow them to get to campus,” says Lotus Executive Director Lee Williams, “but it always seems to work out. We get tremendous positive feedback from the artists themselves.”

Some of Charlene Brown’s stand-out memories from 10 years of Lotus lunches at Harlos House and the Honors College:

Lotus2004-Sep24-TimE_CRobb2005: “Tim Eriksen [pictured at left] taught the students shape-note singing. He gave a wonderful introduction over lunch, and then the group moved into the library, where it was possible to create a square of singers in the shape-note tradition. Within a very short time, he had everyone singing in community.”

2008: “The members of Etran Finatawa [see photo at top] seemed glad to have had the chance to meet U.S. students and were almost reluctant to say good-bye. Hearing members of the band interviewed recently about the challenges they face in trying to create bridges among the different groups in their part of Africa brought back memories of their conversations with our students.”

2009: “We were advised that Los de Abajo [from Mexico; pictured at left] were not likely to speak English, so we lined up a number of Spanish-speaking student hosts. Several of the band members didn’t speak English, but the leader moved comfortably between Spanish and English, as did most of the student hosts. The result was a powerful, spirited, joyful discussion of politics and music. That Saturday night, when Los de Abajo came down into the crowd to dance and sing, the band recognized our students and gave them special greetings. “

“These Lotus events have introduced our students to music that often carries deep cultural meaning in other parts of the world, sometimes includes significant political messages,” says Brown. “The experiences have been extraordinary and memorable.”

For more information on Lotus outreach projects, contact Outreach Director Loraine Martin, (812) 336-6599 or loraine {at} lotusfest {dot} org.

Photo credits, from top: a member of Los de Abajo talks with students at a lunch at the Honors College, courtesy photo Etran Finatawa at Harlos House, courtesy photo; Frigg on stage at the 2013 Festival, photo by Jim Krause; Tim Eriksen teaches shape-note singing at Lotus in the Park (2005), photo by Chris Robb.

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