Category

Faculty/Staff

Fourth blues conference to feature Aaron Neville

By | Community, Delta Center, Faculty/Staff, International Delta Blues Project, President, Students | No Comments

The fourth annual International Conference on the Blues at Delta State University is shaping up to be the best yet. This year’s lineup features GRAMMY winner Aaron Neville and has a two-part theme: Mississippi Delta native John Lee Hooker’s centennial birthday celebration in conjunction with GRAMMY Museum Mississippi and an exploration of ethnomusicologist Alan Lomax’s collection of Mississippi Delta blues and gospel recordings.

The conference is scheduled for Oct. 1-3.

The unique symposium 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.

To register for the conference, visit https://events.r20.constantcontact.com/register/eventReg?oeidk=a07ee79rfch3347d1e5&oseq=&c=&ch=. CEU credit is available for educators.

Among the highlights for this year’s schedule are:

  • an opening reception and tour of the John Lee Hooker exhibit at GRAMMY Museum Mississippi
  • a keynote breakfast featuring Alan Lomax scholar, Dr. John Szwed of Columbia University, New York City
  • a free, open-to-the-public John Lee Hooker tribute concert at Bolivar County Courthouse in downtown Cleveland featuring a trio of the next generation of great bluesmen, Jontavious Willis, Marquise Knox and Kingfish Ingram
  • an open mic “Blues in the Round” event at Mississippi Grounds coffee shop in downtown Cleveland
  • a lunch conversation with Aaron Neville
  • a blues-related film festival in the Sanders Theater at GRAMMY Museum Mississippi
  • a presentation by renowned blues photographer Dick Waterman
  • free admission to GRAMMY Museum Mississippi with paid conference registration
  • a closing concert performance by Aaron Neville at Delta State’s Bologna Performing Arts Center with tickets ranging from $25-$50 and a special 10 percent discount for conference registrants

“As the academic center of the Delta blues, Delta State is proud to host and sponsor this year’s blockbuster blues conference,” said Delta State President William N. LaForge. “With all the superb programming that is scheduled, this conference will not disappoint and is one not to be missed.”

In addition, the conference will announce a project funded by the National Endowment for the Arts that will bring Alan Lomax’s collection of Mississippi recordings back home to the region in partnership with the Association for Cultural Equity at Hunter College.

As part of celebrating this exciting new partnership, the conference will feature keynote speaker Dr. John Szwed. Szwed won the 2006 GRAMMY Award for Best Album Notes for “Jelly Roll Morton: The Complete Library of Congress Recordings,” a box set based on Lomax’s interviews with jazz great Jelly Roll Morton. Szwed is considered a leading authority on Lomax’s life and work. He is the John M. Musser Professor Emeritus of anthropology, African American studies and film studies at Yale University and an adjunct senior research scholar in the Center for Jazz Studies at Columbia University, where he previously served as the center’s director and professor of music and jazz studies.

“We are honored to have Dr. Szwed and representatives from the Association for Culture Equity join us this year to announce our Lomax Mississippi Collection partnership,” said Dr. Rolando Herts, director of The Delta Center. “We look forward to making early recordings of Delta-based blues and gospel singers available to their families and the communities that they called home.”

GRAMMY Museum Mississippi will be the site for much of the conference, including a specially curated exhibit on John Lee Hooker.

“When the initial conversation began for our museum to be the site of this year’s conference we were thrilled,” said Emily Havens, executive director of GRAMMY Museum Mississippi. “Our goal has always been to help give a better understanding of Mississippi’s role in music, and it makes complete sense for us to work with this conference to expand that mission.”

The 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 at Delta State. The conference is being managed by a team of campus and community collaborators including The Delta Center; the Delta Music Institute; the Department of Music; the Division of Languages & Literature; the Office of Institutional Grants; Cleveland Tourism; Visit Mississippi; the City of Cleveland; and Bolivar County.

Over 30 papers will be presented during conference sessions.

“I always marvel at the variety of scholars that our conference attracts,” said Dr. Shelley Collins, a professor in the Department of Music and conference co-chair. “With the conference focusing on both John Lee Hooker and Alan Lomax, we’re thrilled to have received a record number of paper submissions this year.”

Numerous opportunities to enjoy live music will also be available at this year’s conference. Monday night will feature a free concert in downtown Cleveland by Jontavious Willis, Marquise Knox and Kingfish Ingram. On Tuesday, Aaron Neville will be interviewed during a lunch conversation, and later that evening, he will perform at the Bologna Performing Arts Center. Conference registrants are eligible to receive a 10 percent discount on ticket prices for this special closing concert.

“Jontavious Willis, Marquise Knox and Kingfish Ingram playing John Lee Hooker songs and their solo and original sides is such a great tribute to both the past and future of the blues,” said Don Allan Mitchell, conference co-chair. “Their average age is 23, and their superb advocacy for blues, as especially relevant to modern African American culture, will especially resonate with our diverse audiences. And Aaron Neville — the man is a music legend and his experience, knowledge and talent will be such a great addition. With a record number of paper and presentation submissions for this year’s conference, and a first-rate lineup of both artists and scholars, there is nowhere to go but up.”

Follow all conference updates at http://www.internationaldeltabluesproject.com/conference.

Youth camp to be offered during Spring Break

By | College of Arts and Sciences, Community, Faculty/Staff | No Comments

A grant from the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks will help support the inaugural Spring Outdoor Camp for Youth during Spring Break 2018 on the campus of Delta State.

Dr. AHM Ali Reza, associate professor of biology and environmental sciences, applied for the grant funded through the Youth Participation Initiative Program of MDWFP. The Youth Participation Program was established in 2009 to provide funding for the purpose of educating children in the areas of hunting, fishing, conservation and safety.

Reza is planning to organize the week-long camp between March-12-15 in collaboration with project partner Nathan Aycock from the fisheries program of MDWFP, who is based at Charlie Capps Wildlife Management Area near Rosedale, Mississippi.

The overall goal of the program is to educate and train young members of the community to be responsible citizens with a deep love for the outdoors, while encouraging them to hunt and fish responsibly.

“We look forward to introducing this new camp to local youth who are passionate about the outdoors, hunting, fishing and conservation,” said Reza. “We are very thankful to the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks for making this camp a possibility. Campers will have a number of unforgettable hands-on experiences.”

The camp’s home base will be at Delta State’s campus with outdoor activities at Dahomey National Wildlife Refuge and fishing activities at Bear Pen Park. Attendees will learn personal safety, outdoor navigation and nature photography, along with a lecture on ecological aspects and conservation of the ecosystem. Participants will also learn about scientific aspects of hunting and fishing, wildlife and fish identification, types of fish sampling equipment, terminal tackle, water quality analysis, fishing safety and fish cleaning, and more.

Children between ages 9-12 will be selected from Cleveland and surrounding areas based on their interests and a few other criteria. Total spots for the camp will be limited at 30 and participants are encouraged to reserve a spot as soon as possible.

Tuition fees are to be determined, but Reza said it will be somewhere in the range of $100-$125. Campers will be provided with giveaways including fishing rods, a T-shirt, gift items, lunch, snacks and more.

For more information, or to reserve a spot, contact Reza at areza@deltastate.edu.

Reza leads field course in Bangladesh

By | Academics, College of Arts and Sciences, Faculty/Staff, International, Students | No Comments

Dr. A.H.M. Ali Reza, associate professor of biology at Delta State, recently returned from leading another international field course in his homeland of Bangladesh.

The two-week tropical field biology study abroad course, which took place in July, was in partnership with the Creative Conservation Alliance (CCA), an NGO that works tirelessly to conserve Bangladesh’s imperiled wildlife.

“This was a special opportunity for students to get direct access to one of the most diverse environments in the world — the jungles of Lawachara National Park,” said Reza. “Students were provided with some of the best résumé-boosting conservation field experience you could imagine.”

Dr. A.H.M. Ali Reza

Open to university students around the world, the curriculum focused on biology, natural resources management, conservation biology, wildlife ecology, management, veterinary sciences and related fields.

Thanks to the partnership with CCA, course fees directly contributed to the conservation of the endangered flora and fauna of Bangladesh.

Reza also led a shorter-term outdoor adventure education workshop from July 13-16 open to local participants. The workshop was sponsored by Delta State University, the DSU Quality Enhancement Plan and the CCA. Participants learned about environmental policies and issues, research and study practices, and wildlife photography techniques.

A group of 45 students from local universities participated in the workshop and received a certificate issued by Delta State and CCA. Reza was joined by a team of experts to manage the large group of students. Colleagues included: Ceasar Shahirar Rahman, CEO of CCA; Dr. Kamrul Hasan, professor of zoology at Jahangirnagar University; Scott Trageser, director of CCA; Dr. Samia Saif, biologist of BCAS; and Tania Khan, a freelance naturalist.

Reza said hands-on field courses often help students get recognized in the scientific field.

“You have a great chance of getting your name on a scientific publication by making a range extension, or even discovering a new species,” he said. “Our 2014 and 2015 trips recognized multiple potentially new species and made several range extensions. In 2016, our group discovered a new species of a Takydromus lizard.”

During his trip to Bangladesh, Reza also organized two seminars at Jahangirnagar University and Independent University of Bangladesh, where he discussed the environmental policy issues related to U.S. and Bangladesh perspectives. Both seminars had high attendance and wide covered by the local media.

At the end of the trip, Reza participated in a live — online as well as on a local television — panel discussion on river conservation and aquatic biodiversity in Bangladesh. The small country, slightly bigger than the state Mississippi, has more than 700 major rivers.

“Many of them have issues related to pollution, encroachment, building unplanned dams, etc.,” said Reza. “During the panel discussions, experts and managers discussed ways to mitigate the issues.”

Reza, who also serves as Delta State’s international partnership liaison, is planning to offer another field course in December. For more information about fieldwork and other opportunities with Delta State’ environmental science program, contact Reza at areza@deltastate.edu.

LaForge outlines bright future at convocation

By | Academics, Community, Faculty/Staff, President | No Comments

Delta State University President William N. LaForge delivered his State of the University address Thursday during opening convocation ceremonies at the Bologna Performing Arts Center.

The address was titled “With Gratitude” and began with a thank you to faculty and staff for their continued efforts at the start of Delta State’s 93rd academic year.

“I am pleased to report that the current state of the university is positive, stable and advancing, and I am optimistic about a bright future,” said LaForge.

President LaForge said the university remains positive thanks to Delta State’s stellar people and programs.

“We embrace and promote core values such as individual worth, a healthy life style, hospitality, a strong work ethic, cultural enrichment, civility and respect for all, loyalty, ethical conduct, and accountability in all we do — for which I am profoundly grateful,” he said.

“We certainly have serious challenges, especially budget related, but we can rightfully commence our new academic year with the confidence that the ship is upright and moving in the right direction — combined with a dose of caution about the budget situation.”

LaForge was referencing major state budget cuts that have trimmed institutional funds by approximately $2.2 million in the last fiscal year. Despite these cuts, the president said the university is stable thanks to a recent recovery from years of eroding enrollment and financial woes.

According to LaForge, Delta State is advancing in response to a slate of new and bigger opportunities available on campus. Among those, he cited the remodeled Wiley Planetarium, the creation of the Dave Heflin Outdoor Recreation Lab, a major increase in the international student body, a long list of athletic achievements, a number of facility remodeling and renovation projects, major campus conferences, and a boost to recruitment and marketing efforts.

Despite the optimism, the president asked faculty and staff to remain extra cautious of the state budget cuts.

“A sad and disappointing statistic to report is that, for the first time in history, state funding is no longer Delta State’s largest source of operating revenue,” said LaForge. “This year, we will derive less revenue from the state than from tuition. Arguably, we have crossed over from being a state-supported university to a state-assisted university.”

“I am truly grateful to everyone on campus for joining our efforts to manage our way through this challenging budget time,” he added. “We will hope for, and work toward, a better budget climate for next year — but, that outcome is largely dependent on the fiscal health of the state.”

The president and his cabinet have enacted a responsible budget process, one that remains visionary and transparent, and guides the university according to strict business and ethical principles.

Like the university community as a whole, LaForge’s optimism will guide the institutional vision in the face of challenges. Delta State will remain committed to its 10 visioning principles, which LaForge outlined at last year’s convocation.

“Why shouldn’t we engage in a sense of idealism about who and what we are at Delta State?” asked LaForge. “After all, our ideas and actions make this university what it is every day. There’s no reason why we cannot apply even better ideas and actions to remaking the reality and condition of Delta State. But we must be intentional about it. It won’t just happen. I firmly believe that there is no limit to the creativity of the human mind.”

Visit www.deltastate.edu to stay updated on university news and event coverage.

Koehler honored with retrospective exhibit

By | Academics, College of Arts and Sciences, Faculty/Staff | No Comments
“Ron Koehler Retrospective: 45 Years of Sculpture” opens at the Fielding Wright Art Center on Aug. 31.

 

Delta State University’s Fielding Wright Art Center opens its 2017-18 season on Aug. 31 with “Ron Koehler Retrospective: 45 Years of Sculpture,” an exhibition celebrating the career of the former Department of Art chair.

An opening reception will be held Aug. 31 from 5- 7 p.m.

Koehler taught at Delta State University for 35 years and served as chair of the department for more than a decade. He retired this summer as professor and chair emeritus.

During his long and distinguished career, Koehler participated in over 500 regional, national and international exhibitions, received countless awards, and saw his work enter the permanent collections of museums and galleries across the nation.

The retrospective offers a rare opportunity to absorb the astonishing breadth of Koehler’s artistic pursuits, the subject matter that has occupied him, and the variety of media he has employed.

Koehler said that a casual visitor to the exhibit might get the impression that the work was created by more than one artist, but what connects his wide variety of work is his interest in exploration.

“Exploration of shape, form, media, color, texture, concept and genre,” said Koehler. “Exploration of technique, movement, scale, iconography, purpose and activism. Exploration of personal goals. Exploration of time and place. Exploration of fear, and exploration of the absurd.”

His explorations of a subject matter, or the possibilities of a medium, often lead him to work in a series. Another common element in Koehler’s works is his ever-present sense of humor, as seen in the “Balanced Diet” series, which consists of an assortment of cholesterol heavy food items. Examples from his famous “Brush” series, which numbers in the hundreds, will also be included in the exhibit.

“I’m not sure if I made the choice to devote my life to creating art, or if the choice was made for me long before I was born by some cosmic combustion I was never privy to,” said Koehler, looking back on his career. “What I can say for absolute certain is that art and the creation of it has defined my life in immeasurable ways. This exhibition, I hope, will document the trip thus far.”

“Ron Koehler Retrospective: 45 Years of Sculpture” will run from Aug. 24 to Sept. 21. Koehler will generously donate all proceeds from exhibit sales to the foundation of the Salley/Koehler Community College Scholarship Fund at Delta State University.

Regular gallery hours are Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Fridays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The gallery is closed on weekends, holidays and during semester breaks.

For more information, visit the DSU Art Department’s website at http://www.deltastate.edu/college-of-arts-and-sciences/art/ or contact 662-846-4720. For updates and announcements of upcoming events, follow Delta State Art Department on Facebook or join our email list.