About Opening Nights

The mission of Opening Nights Performing Arts Series and Festival at Florida State University is to engage the university, local, and global communities in creative experiences.


Performing arts presenting at Florida State began in 1921 with the creation of the Florida State College for Women Artist Series. The inaugural concert was by composer and bandleader John Philip Sousa. Through the years the Artist Series brought world-class talent to campus including modern dance pioneer and choreographer Martha Graham, cello virtuoso Pablo Casals, bandleader and pianist Count Basie, and the Metropolitan Opera National Touring Company.

In 1968 Florida State President John Champion enhanced the Artist Series by creating the Florida State University Fine Arts Festival, which presented the Artist Series’ international and national talent alongside faculty and student performances encompassing the entire month of February. The Artist Series and Fine Arts Festival continued in some capacity until the end of the 1991 Spring Semester.

After becoming President of Florida State University, Sandy D’Alemberte reached out to former Florida State Presidents and First Ladies to ask them a question, “What was your greatest accomplishment as President?” The Champion’s answer was the “Fine Arts Festival” and implored President D’Alemberte to reinstate performing arts presenting on campus. The inaugural season of Seven Days of Opening Nights took place in February 1999.

Arts education is at the core of Opening Nights’ mission. Our goal is to provide meaningful artistic and professional experiences to students on and off of Florida State University’s campus. Opening Nights provides master classes, lectures, and question and answer sessions for students by visiting artists and performers. These educational opportunities are free to students and provide an invaluable experience with professional artists, musicians, actors, etc.

In January 2014, Opening Nights and Leon County Schools were designated a Partners in Education site by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. The Partners in Education program is designed to assist arts organizations throughout the nation in developing and/or expanding educational partnerships with their local school systems. The primary purpose of these partnerships is to provide professional learning in the arts for teachers.

Since the inaugural festival sixteen seasons ago, Opening Nights has grown into an annual series of performances from October through April, while continuing to embrace its history in presenting a two-week February festival - bringing performing arts presenting at Florida State University full-circle to the days of the Artist Series and Fine Arts Festival.