One hardly could imagine a better person to represent music for World Fest than David Amram, who will perform five concerts featuring selections from dozens of nations.
As composer, performer and conductor, Mr. Amram is adept at a staggering range of folk, ethnic, jazz and classical styles. He plays 50 instruments from around the world, many of which he learned while in 25 countries as the U.S. State Department's music ambassador during the 1970s.
"The idea of World Fest is a dream come true for me," says Mr. Amram, 59, a Philadelphia native living on a farm in upstate New York.
"Everywhere I've been in the world, I've tried to understand that country's music and how it related to that of other countries. I was thrilled to learn that Atlanta will be the site of the Olympics. World Fest will be a wonderful prelude to the Olympic spirit. It brings people together in a harmonious way."
Mr. Amram's World Fest concerts, varied and comprehensive, promise to be as educational as they are entertaining.
The first two concerts focus on "Classics of Jazz and World Music" with the David Amram Quartet, which in addition to Mr. Amram (on piano, horn and assorted exotic instruments) includes a guitarist, bassist and drummer.
"We'll play an Irish slipjig, some Cajun music, music by Sioux and Pueblo Indians, Hoagy Carmichael's "Georgia," and my theme from the movie "Love Is a Many Splendored Thing."
Saturday morning's concert should be a children's delight. Mr. Amram will perform on 35 instruments from around the world. In one piece, he says, "I'll show how to play three flutes at once as they do in the Middle East."
Children will have a chance to contribute in a song "where the kids suggest four topics, and we make up blues on the spot" and in a piece about Alfred the Hog, which calls on the audience to produce animal sounds.
Night owls won't want to miss Saturday's midnight concert, "Jazz, Our International Treasure." That title, Mr. Amram says, reflects his experiences performing jazz under State Department auspices: "I was impressed by how much American jazz was appreciated throughout the world. This music makes people think of America in a positive way."
This program spotlights music by jazz greats Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Sonny Rollins and George Gershwin. The concert also will premiere "One World, One Heart," which Mr. Amram wrote for World Fest.
Mr. Amram turns his attention Sunday to classical music, conducting 31 members of the Atlanta Symphony in Falla's "Ritual Fire Dance," Borodin's "In the Steppes of Central Asia" and Bartok's "Romanian Dances" as well as Mr. Amram's own "Cheyenne and Cajun" and "Brazilian Memories." The program wraps up with an Kenyan farewell song in which the audience sings in Swahili.