CLEVELAND, Miss. — The Delta State University Department of Music announced the creation of the Rogers and Mary Helen Varner Jazz Scholarship at the annual Honors Recital on April 17. Accumulated funds raised from the Big Band Bash over 15 years have been placed into an endowment managed by the Delta State University Foundation. The interest from this investment will provide scholarships annually to students selected for their contributions, musical and otherwise, to the Jazz Ensemble.
For the last 15 years, Mississippi Delta jazz fans have enjoyed classic Swing Era music, dinner, and dancing at the Delta State Jazz Ensemble’s annual Big Band Bash event. This fundraising effort has provided the Jazz Ensemble with items including musical instruments, audio equipment, and sheet music. Now, in addition to meeting those needs on an ongoing basis, funds raised at that event will provide another much-needed resource: scholarships for outstanding Jazz Ensemble members. Rogers and Mary Helen Varner, residents of Merigold, were instrumental in creating the Big Band Bash event with former Delta State Professor of Music Paul Hankins, and have been crucial to its success, managing ticket sales, publicity, decorations, and much more. (In addition, Rogers’s robust tenor saxophone playing as a community participant has been a longtime part of the band’s sound.)
At the Honors Recital, Mary Helen received the Department of Music’s Service Award, and Rogers is a previous winner of the department’s Philanthropy Award. According to Delta State Jazz Ensemble director, Professor of Music Bret Pimentel, “This scholarship will be a fitting, ongoing tribute to the Varners for their generous service to the Jazz Ensemble, the music department, and the university. It will provide much-needed scholarship funds to deserving students. I look forward to working with the Varners next year to select the first awardees.”
For more information about the DSU Music Department, visit www.deltastate.edu/artsandsciences/music/.