It’s been five years since Aiken and Juilliard forged an agreement to bring world-class artists to Aiken for a week each year. Students and graduates of the famed arts school come to Aiken each year to entertain our community.

As important, they provide wonderful outreach programs to local students with the hope of inspiring children. The artists work directly with students, teaching and inspiring them. For many of these students, it’s the chance of a lifetime to work directly with such fine and committed artists.

For the Juilliard students, it gives them an opportunity to give back.

On Saturday, the fifth Juilliard in Aiken Festival opens with a program for young children. Children ages 4, 5 and 6 can come on stage and work with Juilliard drama students. It promises to be a wonderful program and, because there’s no charge to attend, it is an opportunity for any child to be a part of a world-class drama program.

Throughout the week there will be performances throughout the community. Many are free, others have ticket prices much lower than we’d probably see in New York.

The relationship between Juilliard and Aiken began in 1996, when authors Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith bequeathed Joye Cottage in Aiken to The Juilliard School with the intention of providing a retreat for students, faculty and alumni.

Each year the festival grows and improves. We’ve come to expect to be wowed, and they have come to expect our welcoming hospitality. It’s become familiar and comfortable.

Next week promises to be filled with art and music. Our community will be further enriched by Juilliard’s kindness, and we hope they are equally enriched by ours.