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“Boo” Mitchell, Cedric Burnside to headline third annual blues conference

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The Third Annual International Conference on the Blues promises to bring legendary entertainment and academics to Delta State University from Sunday, Oct. 2 through Tuesday, Oct. 4, including GRAMMY award-winner and Royal Studios owner Lawrence “Boo” Mitchell and GRAMMY nominee and four-time Blues Music Award winner Cedric Burnside.

The conference, which is still open for registration, brings together Blues scholars, historians and fans from all over the United States in the heart of the Mississippi Delta, a place known as the epicenter of Blues music and history.

Among the highlights of this year’s International Conference on the Blues:

  •  ‘Blues on the Grounds’ at Historic Dockery Farms featuring music by Jake and the Pearl Street Jumpers;
  • a keynote address by Lawrence “Boo” Mitchell;
  • a conversation and an outdoor concert in downtown Cleveland with Cedric Burnside;
  • a presentation by GRAMMY winner Dr. David Evans, leading specialist in Blues, American folk music, and popular music
  • events highlighting Blues music songwriters and performers including ‘Blues in the Round’ sponsored by Visit Mississippi;
  • and brunch on the front porch of GRAMMY Museum Mississippi

Visit here for a complete schedule of events, or here for a complete list of presenters.

“Once again, the International Conference on the Blues is advancing partnerships and engaging diverse populations toward enhancing the educational and cultural climate at Delta State and in the broader community,” said Dr. Rolando Herts, director of The Delta Center for Culture and Learning, “We appreciate the involvement and support of various local, statewide, and national organizations including the Robert M. Hearin Foundation, the Dockery Farms Foundation, Entergy, Visit Mississippi, Nehi Bottling Company, GRAMMY Museum Mississippi, Bridging the Blues, Levitt AMP Series, and others that are making this great conference possible for a third year.”

The third annual conference is part of the International Delta Blues Project, which is funded by the Robert M. Hearin Foundation and is based at The Delta Center for Culture and Learning. The conference is being managed by a team of campus and community collaborators including the Delta Music Institute, the Department of Music, the Division of Languages & Literature, the Office of Institutional Grants, and Cleveland Tourism.

“I always marvel at the variety of scholars that our conference attracts,” said Dr. Shelley Collins, a professor in the Department of Music and co-chair of the International Conference on the Blues. “Either our presenters are alums of these schools, graduate students at these universities, or teach at the following institutions: The University of Pittsburgh, University of Washington, Alcorn State University, BYU, Vanderbilt University, University of California Berkeley, Stanford University, Marist College, the University of Memphis, the University of London, the University of Oregon, Stanford University, The University of Idaho, Washington State University, The Ohio State University, and Loyola University of New Orleans. We will even have a participant coming in from Singapore, which gives you an idea of how globally influential the Blues is.”

Lawrence “Boo” Mitchell began working with his father, producer and Royal Studios founder Willie Mitchell, at a young age, accumulating rare credits and abilities. His own career began at age 17 when he played keyboard on one of Al Green‘s gospel albums which later won a Grammy Award. In the early 90’s he began a role as a producer and engineer with credits on albums by artists such as John Mayer, Rod Stewart, Anthony Hamilton, Solomon Burke, William Bell and Cody Chestnutt, among others. After Willie’s death in 2010, Boo and his brother Archie continued their father’s legacy as owners of Royal Studios while maintaining their roles as producers and engineers. In 2016 his work as engineer / mixer on Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars’ hit “Uptown Funk” was recognized with a GRAMMY award for Record of the Year.

“Personally, Mr. Boo Mitchell defines cool for me,” said Don Allan Mitchell, co-chair of the conference. “I’ve met him on a couple of occasions, and he is so modest about his work. It still blows my mind when I see the clips of him on the GRAMMY stage with Bruno Mars. His keynote speech may well be his first formal academic address on the importance of the Blues in the American tradition, but I know he’ll perform like the consummate professional he is, with a quiet-spoken confidence and a wry sense of humor. It’s great to have him back in Cleveland.”

Grammy-nominee Cedric Burnside was born and raised around Holly Springs, Mississippi. He is the grandson of legendary R.L. Burnside and son of drummer Calvin Jackson. This four-time winner of the prestigious Blues Music Award’s Drummer of the Year (2010-2014) is widely regarded as one of the best drummers in the world and has begun to make a name for himself as a traditional blues guitarist as well. In addition to his grandfather R.L, Cedric has also played and recorded with countless musicians, including Junior Kimbrough, Kenny Brown, North Mississippi Allstars, Burnside Exploration, Widespread Panic, Jimmy Buffett, T Model Ford, Bobby Rush, Honey Boy Edwards, Hubert Sumlin, Galactic, Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears, and The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, among many others. In 2006, he was featured in Craig Brewer’s critically acclaimed feature film Black Snake Moan, playing drums alongside Samuel L. Jackson. (The film is a loose tribute to R.L. Burnside, and gives many nods to the late bluesman.) The Cedric Burnside Project’s latest album, Descendants of Hill Country, was nominated for a Grammy for Best Blues Album of the Year.

Burnside will perform an outdoor concert Monday night, and Monday morning will be interviewed by Don Allan Mitchell.

“Because of the GRAMMY-nomination, Mr. Burnside is in high demand as a performer this year, and I look forward to talking to him about his life on the road, and how the GRAMMY-nomination has influenced his career trajectory,” said Mitchell. “Hill Country Blues is a cousin of Mississippi Delta Blues, so it will be interesting to discuss the cross-influence with him. The International Conference on the Blues-sponsored Levitt Amp Performance on Monday night will be a great opportunity for our students and fellow Clevelanders to get their ‘full tilt boogie’ on. ”

This year’s conference promises to build on the vision established for the event when it began two years ago, and is a key component to Delta State’s pursuit of building a premiere curriculum around the art, culture, history and heritage of the Mississippi Delta.

“I am looking forward to the renewal of this fall signature conference on the blues, because it reinforces Delta State’s claim as the academic center of the blues,” said Delta State University President William N. LaForge. “It’s always exciting to hear the presentations and performances that highlight our conference. I know this October’s schedule, like those in the past that have been so successful, will not disappoint. I look forward to participating with all the visiting blues scholars and our faculty, staff and students during what will certainly be a wonderful program.

For more information, please contact Mitchell and Collins at blues@deltastate.edu.

The mission of The Delta Center is to promote greater understanding of Mississippi Delta culture and history and its significance to the world through education, partnerships and community engagement. The Delta Center is the home of the International Delta Blues Project and serves as the management entity of the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area. For more information, visit http://www.deltastate.edu/academics/delta-center-for-culture-and-learning/

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Art Department faculty showcase work

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Delta State University’s Art Department invites the public to a reception celebrating the opening of its annual faculty exhibition on Thursday, Sept. 29, from 5 to 7 p.m.

DSU’s art faculty are practicing artists, designers, and filmmakers who regularly exhibit in venues across the nation. The annual faculty exhibition, held at the Fielding Wright Art Center, offers the campus and the community an opportunity to view new work created by these artists.

Participating artists are Amy Cannestra, Will Jacks, Ky Johnston, Ron Koehler, Michaela Merryday, Jon Mark Nail, Cetin Oguz, Kim Rushing, Mollie Rushing, Michael Stanley, and Natalie Tyree.

Ron Koeher, Chair of the Art Department, creates figurative stories that play with perception and reveal his wonderful sense of humor as in his sculpture “Mr. Brickman Loves His Friends.” Mr. Brickman is a brick column sculpture surrounded by his brick friends and birds entirely made of wood. Koehler who is known for his endlessly inventive interpretations of brushes has a fascination with tools as well as with how things are made. He recently started to investigate the ordinary hammer which resulted in a set called “Ten Hammers.” These objects are created from wood and the heads of the hammers are painted with a graphite patina that gives them a metallic-look.

Amy Cannestra’s work, shifting between video, sculpture, performance, and digital arts, probes and breaks down the body. Humanizing object and objectifying human by bringing the things we hide to the forefront, putting the uncomfortable out in the open. Her work uses horror, sex, and humor to question our culture’s obsession with body and perfection.

Ky Johnston’s new work presents a reflection on his roots in pottery and a continued attempt to blend influences from various sources into functional pottery. In this work he is exploring functional forms, mostly from the wheel, sometimes altered or stretched, often cut or faceted. The glazes use common materials including various clays, wood ash, and some raw pigments and are fired with gas. His goal is to allow the materials, processes, and long history of the craft to play a big role in the end result.

Michaela Merryday has explored furniture design and the possibility of combining wood furniture and felt in the past year. The work presented here combine her interest in minimalist design and multi-functional furniture.

Jon Mark Nail is a film maker, whose work explores Mississippi, its culture and its mythos. He is fascinated by what he calls Mississippi’s idiosyncrasies. Nail sees Mississippi as “a land steeped in contradiction: a land that is at once lush and barren, a society known for its gentility as well as its savagery, a prideful people and a shamed people.” His work explores the themes of hope and despair, great promise and dreadful demise, love and death, honor and collapse.

Cetin Oguz is an abstract painter who is interested in the process of painting. According to the artist, he is preoccupied with “the process which occurs naturally and defines the space and the process which suspends the intellect within the void of its activity. The natural markings, scratches, layers, and lines are kept and reworked in the present as though to reveal more of the past. ”

Kim Rushing, who just published a book of a series photographs he had taken at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman, MS, twenty years ago, has been thinking a lot about how his approach to image making has changed over the years. For this exhibition he selected a series of photographs from various periods of his career that he still finds exciting.

Mollie Rushing is a textile artist whose quilts use pattern and color to create the illusion of texture and space.

Michael Stanley’s sculptural work in this exhibition is a continuation of his interests in media, process, form, and function. There are examples of rigid materials and soft materials, examples of slow processes and fast processes, examples of familiar and unfamiliar form, and examples of varying degrees of function. The freedom to move between media, process, form, and function is a key aspect of his creative process and nurtures his compulsion to create.

DSU’s Annual Faculty Exhibition will be on view until Oct. 27. The gallery is open Mondays through Thursdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Fridays from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. For more information, please contact the Art Department at 662-846-4720.

The Chick-fil-A Leader Academy Kickoff returns to Delta State Sept. 21.

Chick-fil-A Leader Academy returning to campus

By | Academics, Chick-Fil-A, Community | No Comments

The Chick-fil-A Leader Academy Kickoff event returns to Delta State Sept. 21, bringing 500 Mississippi high school students and administrators to campus.

This event begins the year-long Chick-fil-A Leader Academy, a program to be held in over 15 Mississippi high schools, that teaches leadership skills and empowers students to put those skills into action.

A major goal of the Leader Academy is to inspire students to remain in school and become leaders within their communities. Students will take part in monthly leadership labs at their schools and complete several service projects in their community.

The kickoff will include multiple events and is an integral aspect of the students’ initiation into the academy.

Beginning with an assembly at the Bologna Performing Arts Center, the students will receive detailed information on expectations and goals, and will hear direct testimonials from schools that have participated in the past.

The major service event will follow, as students will take part in their first Impact Project of the year, sponsored by Feeding Children Everywhere. Students will pack over 100,000 non-perishable meals to feed needy children in the Delta and beyond.

Elizabeth Joel, coordinator of Continuing Education at Delta State, has worked closely with Chick-fil-A throughout the year to plan the one-day event.

“We are excited to start our second year partnering with Chick-fil-A and Feeding Children Everywhere,” said Joel. “The Delta State campus will be overflowing with bright young leaders on September 21. It is our hope that our Delta State family and campus will impact their lives and this program.”

She added it is a wonderful opportunity for Delta State to host over 500 students who are the future community leaders.

“We want to demonstrate how important community involvement is at Delta State, in hopes these students will bring their developed, compassionate leadership skills back to us when they attend college,” she said.

In addition to hosting the kickoff event, Delta State departments and student organizations will attend the leadership labs in the high schools over the next year to serve as mentors, especially in the area of community involvement, social issues and thoughtful leadership.

The Leader Academy is funded completely by Chick-fil-A stores throughout Mississippi. A team of Mississippi Chick-fil-A operators are spearheading the project. They will work closely with registered high schools as they complete their monthly leadership labs and multiple service projects for their communities.

Learn more about the program at https://chickfilaleaderacademy.com.

United States District Judge Gustavo A. Gelpi continues the Delta State University Colloquia Distinguished Speakers Lecture Series on Sept. 20 at 6 p.m.

U.S. District Judge Gustavo A. Gelpi to provide Colloquia address

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The Delta State University Colloquia Distinguished Speakers Lecture Series kicks off the fall semester featuring United States District Judge Gustavo A. Gelpi.

Gelpi’s speech, titled “Police Reform Though the Eyes of a United States District Judge,” will begin at 6 p.m. on Sept. 20 in the Jobe Auditorium on campus. The presentation is free and open to the public.

Those unable to attend the event can view the live stream speech online through the university’s official LiveStream channel: https://livestream.com/DeltaStateUniversity.

Delta State President William N. LaForge established the colloquia program when taking office in 2013. The platform is an ongoing series of top-flight lectures and addresses featuring prominent speakers. William F. Winter, former Mississippi governor, was honored as the first speaker in 2013.

Gelpi was appointed to the federal court bench in 2006 by former U.S. President George W. Bush, following his unanimous Senate confirmation. He holds life tenure and sits in the District of Puerto Rico.

Currently, he presides over the nation’s largest police department reform case, which was filed by the United States Attorney General in 2012 as a result of systemic police practices violative of civil rights, such as excessive use of force, racial and ethnic profiling, as well as sexual and political discrimination in the hiring and promotion of officers.

During his judicial tenure, Judge Gelpi has presided over hundreds of prosecutions for narcotics, firearms, child exploitation, immigration, white collar, government corruption and other federal crimes. He has also presided over a large number of civil cases in the areas of civil rights, environmental litigation, medical malpractice, bank shareholder class actions, corporate litigation and personal injury.

Gelpi has had an illustrious career spanning 25 years of public service, previously serving on the federal bench as a United States Magistrate Judge, as Solicitor General of Puerto Rico, and as Assistant Federal Public Defender and judicial law clerk.

He is a graduate of Brandeis University and Suffolk University School of Law in Boston, from which he also holds an honorary doctorate.

LaForge and Gelpi have known each other for about 12 years, and they first met when LaForge was serving as president of the national board of the Federal Bar Association. LaForge’s son Clayton also spent two years as a law clerk for Gelpi in Puerto Rico.

“Judge Gelpi is an outstanding jurist who has had an amazing career on the bench,” said LaForge. “He brings an outstanding amount of expertise on the issues related to police reform. We are looking forward to hosting him on campus.”

In addition to his speech, Gelpi will spend time visiting classes and with student organizations at Delta State.

LaForge said the Distinguished Speakers Lecture Series is another commitment to bringing excellence to Delta State.

“The university colloquia program gives our institution a chance to hear from and engage with experts from a wide array of professions and interests,” said LaForge. “It especially allows our students and faculty to rub elbows with professionals and resources we sometimes have the rare opportunity to engage. Great universities have great programs, and this is one.”

U.S. Congressman Bennie Thompson will follow Gelpi with the next colloquia address on Nov. 9 for a unique and timely look back at the 2016 national election.

Learn more about the series at www.deltastate.edu/president/colloquia.

poverty

Poverty Simulation workshop open to campus and community

By | Academics, College of Education and Human Sciences, Community, Students | No Comments

This Thursday, the Delta State University Department of Social Work, in partnership with the Department of Social Work at Belhaven College, will offer a Poverty Simulation event at the Jacobs Conference Center from 1-3 p.m.

The free event is geared toward senior social work students and any interested campus and community members. Those interested in participating in the workshop are encouraged to contact Dr. Jana Donahoe, assistant professor of social work, before 5 p.m. Wednesday at 662-846-4795 or jdonahoe@deltastate.edu.

“The purpose of the Poverty Simulation is to use a two-hour controlled, role play, experiential learning environment to give participants a glimpse of what it is like to survive for a month on a very low income by pretending to be poor,” said Donahoe.

Participants will be assigned to a family group and given a family member’s role and identity to play. The family is provided with a scenario involving a crisis, which could plunge them into immediate poverty. The family must figure how to survive under the dire circumstances for one month, which is divided into four 15-minute segments, each representing one week during the simulation.

The crisis forces the family to search for ways to survive poverty by living on a fixed amount of income. Social welfare assistance will be made available using volunteer actors who help the family members at tables representing community resources.

The goal is to improve the participants’ attitudes and empathy toward people living in poverty. Additionally, the project seeks to increase participants’ knowledge and understanding of the dynamics of poverty and the work it takes to achieve self-sufficiency.

“It is a very eye-opening experience for participants who are not familiar with the many stressful struggles for survival that people living in poverty face every day,” added Donahoe.