Music is a global and cul­tural uni­fier. With this belief in mind, the U.S. State Depart­ment recently spon­sored Demetrius Spaneas, arts admin­is­trator for North­eastern University’s music depart­ment, to con­duct a series of work­shops with stu­dents of local music schools in Tajik­istan, Azer­baijan and Latvia.

Spaneas’ work focuses on the cre­ation of artistic dia­logue and the pro­mo­tion of Amer­ican music and cul­ture abroad, with par­tic­ular emphasis on the former Soviet republics and Eastern Europe.

With this goal, I have trav­eled from Serbia to Kyr­gyzstan,” said Spaneas, “giving con­certs, teaching at local col­leges and con­ser­va­to­ries, reached out to remote areas to interact with and teach chil­dren and adults, and col­lab­o­rated with local musi­cians and visual artists.”

In Tajik­istan, Spaneas col­lab­o­rated with the Tajik tra­di­tional ensemble Mizrob and com­posed new music for the Second Dushanbe Jazz Fes­tival, for which he was the 2010 artist-​​in-​​residence. The fes­tival pro­moted the mixing of tra­di­tional Tajik music with jazz and Spaneas worked closely with stu­dents, teaching them about jazz as a tra­di­tional Amer­ican music.

Fol­lowing the fes­tival, Spaneas engaged in out­reach pro­grams spon­sored by the U.S. Embassy in Dushanbe, trav­eling to the Pamir moun­tain region and the Afghan border.

The goal of this out­reach was not only to meet vil­lagers and musi­cians, but most impor­tantly, to stim­u­late diplo­macy through cul­tural con­nec­tions and learning,” he said.

During his time in Azer­baijan, Spaneas col­lab­o­rated with the U.S. Embassy in Baku, the Azer­baijan Min­istry of Cul­ture and the Peace Corps to give con­certs and lec­tures throughout the country. Spaneas noted that he was the first Amer­ican musi­cian to ever travel to some remote areas of Azerbaijan.

Before returning to the United States, he spent time in Riga, Latvia, giving spe­cial pre­sen­ta­tions and per­forming a con­cert for the U.S. Embassy there.

As a result of his work and suc­cess at the 2010 jazz fes­tival in Dushanbe, Spaneas was invited to be the artistic director of the 2011 fes­tival, and plans to expand the event to include musi­cians from Iran and Afghanistan.