This weekend, put away those earbuds.

Two music-filled summer solstice events will celebrate the longest day of the year. UNC Greensboro’s Weatherspoon Art Museum hosts its annual Summer Solstice Party Friday evening, and on Saturday, Greensboro hosts the 15th annual Summer Solstice Festival at the Greensboro Arboretum.

For Crystal Bright ’03, a featured performer at the Greensboro event, music is a social activity, and performance is an opportunity to promote community and togetherness.

“One of the purposes of doing this music is to bring people together,” she says. “Music breaks down walls and barriers between people, and that really moves me.”

Bright has carried this philosophy since her time at UNCG, as an undergraduate in the Department of Anthropology. As a young student struggling to decide between pursuing music or anthropology, she was introduced to ethnomusicology by Dr. Gavin Douglas, and she found it perfectly synthesized her interests. She pursued independent studies in ethnomusicology with Douglas, and also took classes on non-western music. When graduation came, Bright made the decision to pursue a master’s degree in ethnomusicology at Florida State University.

Since her graduation from FSU, Bright has traveled the world, playing with a variety of different musical ensembles and bringing disparate influences into her own work with her band, The Silver Hands. She describes their music as eclectic and ethereal, drawing from jazz, rock, and Eastern European and Latin traditions, among others, with a focus on storytelling.

June 22, she will bring that music back to Greensboro for the Summer Solstice Festival at the Greensboro Arboretum.

At the festival, a wide variety of participants come together as one community to celebrate the longest day of the year. From 2 to 8 p.m., three stages will host musical and dance performances, including a drum circle. Musicians, dancers, and large puppets will wind their way through the arboretum in a parade, local artists will sell their wares, and the event will close with a dazzling fire-spinning performance. Admission is $5 for adults and free for children 12 and under. 

The diverse music and cultures brought to the festival, and the community engagement they represent, align with Bright’s creative and academic ethos.

“It’s a really positive vibe. We definitely need more of [these events] that are all-encompassing and cross-cultural. It brings people together from all about.”

Her time at UNCG was formative in developing these values. She cites her studies as helping her become a better performer and composer, connecting her to different people and music, and widening her perspective on life in general. She still keeps in contact with Douglas, and in 2015, returned to UNCG to receive a Distinguished Alumni Award from the Department of Anthropology, speaking to an audience on her work and life and hosting a lunch where she talked with students directly.

Her education, Bright says, helped her appreciate “how much there is to learn from each other. How to be there for each other, within music and outside of music.”

The evening before Bright’s performance, the Weatherspoon Art Museum will host its annual Summer Solstice Party, starting at 5:30 p.m., featuring music, kids’ activities, a scavenger hunt, and more. The event is free and open to the community.

 

Story by Avery Campbell, University Communications
Photography courtesy of Crystal Bright