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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.

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.

Alumni to host Desoto County event

By | Alumni, President | No Comments

The Delta State University National Alumni Association will travel to Southaven for its annual DeSoto County Alumni Event on Saturday, Aug. 12. This year’s event will be held at the BankPlus Training Center and will begin at 6 p.m.

An update from campus will begin at 6:45 p.m., and the Desoto County Scholarship Silent Auction will be open from 6-8 p.m. The cost will be $15 for individuals and $25 for couples. Children are welcome, and kids under 12 eat free. Walk-in guests are welcome to pay at the door.

President William N. LaForge and head baseball coach Mike Kinnison will be the featured guests from campus. Vice President for Student Affairs Dr. Vernell Bennett, the Alumni-Foundation staff, as well as other Delta State faculty and staff will also be in attendance.

“I am glad to help with the planning of the alumni meeting this year,” saids Billy Sears, Desoto County alumni president. “There are dedicated alumni in Desoto County that love Delta State, and it is always great to see our meeting come together each year. It is amazing to continue the love for the university that has given me so much through the years.”

Each year, the event has a silent auction with proceeds benefiting the DeSoto County Scholarships, which are awarded to incoming Delta State freshmen from the area. This year’s recipients are Avery White and Jackson Moore.

Prospective students are invited to attend as guests of the Alumni Association.

To RSVP, contact the association at 662-846-4660 or visit https://www.deltastategiving.org/alumniassociation/desotocountyevent.

All students interested in attending Delta State University are urged to contact Caitlyn Thompson, director of Admissions, at 662-846-4020.

Sponsors for the event include: State Farm agents Ryan T. England and Stephanie Morrison, BankPlus, Renasant Bank, Northcentral Electric Power, First Security Bank, Planters Bank, Lost Pizza Company, McAlister’s Deli, Grapevine Liquor & Wine, and A&B Distributors.

LaForge hosts fourth annual Mayors’ Summit

By | Community, President | No Comments
President William N. LaForge (left) recently welcomed local mayors, including Cleveland mayor Billy Nowell, to Delta State’s fourth annual Delta Mayors Summit.

Mayors from across the Mississippi Delta gathered at Delta State University recently for the fourth annual Delta Mayors’ Summit hosted by President William N. LaForge.

The university invited local mayors to engage in discussion about campus and community activities, and to continue forging collaborations and partnerships in the Delta.

This year’s meeting focused on overall campus updates, a summary of university initiatives, an introduction of a new government leadership institute, as well as updates from a number of campus leaders.

Mayors in attendance also had the opportunity to discuss common challenges and successful initiatives in their respective communities.

LaForge was pleased to build on the success of previous summits, a conference he instituted after becoming president in 2013.

“This is a great opportunity for Delta State to showcase its programs, its successes and its offerings to the elected leadership of the Delta,” said LaForge. “It’s also an opportunity for us to hear from them and find out what they need in the way of workforce and programming. It’s extremely important for us to build these relationships because we must all work together for the improvement of the Delta region, and we also want these cities and towns to send us their students.

“We also offer a number of outreach programs in which local municipalities can participate, such as our race relations conference, the blues conference and our annual international business conference. And today, we’re announcing a program designed to provide professional development opportunities for local elected officials.”

The new program, called Local Government Leadership Institute, will assist Delta communities in addressing governance challenges by providing local officials with the information and tools needed to run their municipalities effectively and efficiently.

The program is a partnership with The John C. Stennis Institute of Government and Community Development at Mississippi State University and the Mississippi Municipal League. It is being offered with financial support from the Robert M. Hearin Foundation and Casey Family Programs.

Billy Nowell, mayor of Cleveland, is thrilled with the summit’s growth each year and with Delta State’s outreach efforts.

“It’s very important we continue this town-gown relationship,” said Nowell. “We really appreciate President LaForge planning this event. It really reminds all the mayors in the Delta that the university is here for them as well as all the students. President LaForge has shown that time and time again.”

Eulah L. Peterson, the recently elected mayor of Mound Bayou, enjoyed networking with university staff and fellow Delta mayors.

“As a new mayor, I’m very pleased to have the opportunity to be here at the summit and to learn about the things we’ll be working on jointly with the university,” said Peterson. “It’s also good to hear what other common concerns the other mayors have. This is a very positive opportunity to share and work together.”

Follow all Delta State University news at www.deltastate.edu.

Young-Mauldin closes for major renovations

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

Members of the  President’s Cabinet and fellow staff members shared lunch at Delta State’s Young-Mauldin Dining Hall on Thursday, the final meal to be served at the cafeteria until major building renovations come to fruition.

According to Jeff Barkman, director of Facilities Management at Delta State, the $9.2 million in renovations will include an updated dining space, theater, snack bar and private dining room. The remodeling will also feature a new state-of-the-art kitchen.

The new temporary dining location will be the State Room in the H.L. Nowell Student Union. A temporary kitchen has also been constructed across the hall.

Jamie Rutledge, vice president for Finance and Administration at Delta State, said the anticipated start of construction is Sept. 1 and will continue for 18 months.

“The cafeteria will be totally renovated throughout the entire building,” said Rutledge. “All of the mechanical, plumbing and electrical will be completely replaced. Repairs will also include all new kitchen equipment, furniture and serving lines.”

Untitled-1Dr. Vernell Bennett, vice president for Student Affairs, said the renovations would provide a major boost to the student dining experience.

“Student Affairs is excited about this project. This state-of-the-art facility will benefit both current and future students by improving the university’s service delivery, campus facility and food service offerings, and recruitment,” said Bennett. “The theater and private dining room will be very helpful for programming and will serve as a vital additional outlet for student engagement activities and projects. The updated dining space and expanded food service choices will afford our students more options for dining, which was the topic of several town hall forums that Student Affairs sponsored last spring.”

Ashley Griffin, president of the Student Government Association, said her peers are also looking forward to the upgrades.

“When we survey students at Delta State for things they feel will enhance their college experience, responses always includes Wi-Fi and their cafe experience,” said Griffin. “By remodeling the cafe with these accommodations, it will become a great place for eating, but also a place for students to socialize and relax in an on-campus area that’s not the dorm. The updates in the kitchen will hopefully give the cooks more food options to serve students. I feel this is a step towards fulfilling what students having been wanting for years.”

Follow all Delta State news at www.deltastate.edu.