Next Level is an initiative of the U.S. Department of State, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Meridian International Center. Its mission is to use hip hop music, dance, and art to foster cross-cultural creative exchange in diverse communities. We work to promote understanding and conflict transformation in these audiences, and support the professional development of artists in those communities.

Next Level brings people together and encourages greater understanding through the universality of music as a form of creative self-expression. It also builds on the historic legacy of the Department of State’s Jazz Ambassadors, who first traveled the world in the 1950s to connect with people through music.

During the exchanges, teams of MCs, DJs, hip hop dancers, beatmakers, beatboxers, and graffiti artists conduct public concerts, interactive performances with local musicians, lecture demonstrations, workshops, and jam sessions with diverse audiences.

Next Level activities focus on promoting conflict transformation and interacting with younger and underserved audiences around the world. Next Level programs also focus on musical entrepreneurship, conducting workshops and discussions on global music business best practices today.

Next Level artist-educators are selected on the basis of artistic quality and commitment to education and cultural engagement through an open competition.

Department of State

The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs promotes international mutual understanding through a wide range of academic, cultural, private-sector, professional, and sports exchange  programs. These international exchanges engage youth, students, educators, artists, athletes, and emerging leaders in many fields in the United States and in more than 160 countries. Alumni of ECA exchanges comprise over one million people around the world, including more than 50 Nobel Laureates and more than 320 current or former heads of state and government.

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

The Institute for the Arts and Humanities at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill empowers faculty to achieve their full potential by creating community and cultivating leadership. The IAH supports its mission through its Faculty Fellows Program by sponsoring conferences, lectures, and public conversations. The Institute trains and supports current and emerging university leaders through the Academic Leadership Program. The Institute promotes community through its Faculty Programs that build mentoring networks for faculty at all stages of their academic careers.

Meridian International Center

For over 55 years, Meridian International Center has been preparing U.S. and international leaders to meet global challenges and opportunities through exchange, culture, and training. Culture and the arts yield a unique power for people across borders to share experiences, shape identities, and imagine the future. Cultural diplomacy allows people from all over the world to relate to one another – despite oft-perceived differences – by emphasizing shared values that constitute the fabric of their identity. The Meridian Center for Cultural Diplomacy (MCCD) harnesses culture – visual art, music, dance, cuisine, and film – to engage audiences around the world through compelling exhibitions, exchanges, forums, public-private partnerships, educational initiatives, and community outreach, resulting in individuals and communities finding common ground, forging more stable relationships, and fostering genuine respect.