For weeks students at USM have volunteered hundreds of hours of their time, so that they could provide members of the Hattiesburg community with free concerts featuring world-class artists. The USM School of Mass Communication and Journalism has been collaborating with the City of Hattiesburg and the Hattiesburg Arts Council in an exciting effort to present the Levitt AMP music series that began on July 7 in Chain Park. The concert series is being provided free of charge due to the generosity of the Levitt Foundation and The City of Hattiesburg.
Every year, the Levitt Foundation awards 15 grants to cities with underutilized public spaces in hopes of bringing communities together through music. When Jonathan Pluskota, an assistant professor in the School of Mass Communication and Journalism, took notice of the Levitt Foundation’s work, he quickly initiated the grant application and conceptualized the possibilities of a symbiotic relationship between his students and the city of Hattiesburg.
The USM students and faculty have been at the helm planning this series for months. They received the grant with the help of diligent sponsors and professors, publicized the concert series through commercials and other advertisements and ensured the success of the series with thorough planning and preparation. Though there were many contributions from the faculty, this concert series was largely student run. Cindy Blackwell, an associate professor and assistant director of the School of Mass Communication and Journalism, made it clear that the students’ contributions and dedication have been instrumental in the series. “It has been a lot of work, but it has been worth every minute because of the experience the students have received. They come out here and they do everything from the set up to the sound with us.,” Blackwell said. Through the series, students not only were able to apply their major-specific skills, but were also able to gain new ones. Jamicah Mcniel, a senior media production major, created the commercials that were publicized on Fox 23.
“There were 10 commercials for 10 weeks. Creating the commercials forced me to push myself. I had never worked with the After Effects software before. Afterwards, I felt more confident in my editing skills,” Mcniel said. Hunter Huff, a senior entertainment industry major and head stage tech, spoke of how he enjoyed getting to work so closely with all of the colorful artists from Mississippi.
“I grew up listening to Cedric Burnside’s music and his grandfather’s music. It really helped influence me as a musician and an engineer. The opportunity to have an intimate conversation with him was a cool experience that I won’t ever forget,” Huff said. April Jackson, a senior media production major, felt that her part in the project from its inception and as its MC has been rewarding.
“It’s a humbling experience for me because I hope I am able to change people’s day for the better,” Jackson said.
Looking around Chain Park during a concert, you can see families, couples, and students relaxing and basking in the ambiance of a Mississippi evening of music. All of this was for them, and it was evident that they were reaping the benefits. Sarah Dixon, the associate director of the Luckyday program on campus, attended the series Sep. 1 and was eager to express her enthusiasm for the series. “My daughter likes dancing; she is three. We want to expose her to artists and cultural events as well. You bring a blanket and a chair and you come out and enjoy music. It’s awesome that this is national thing, but we got this here in Hattiesburg.” In the words of Quanterris Newby, a Southern Miss Recording Industry and Production senior and student leader for the project, said “Just come out here and enjoy some music. We are all friends and family.”
There will be one last concert this Fri., Sep. 8 at 7 p.m. in Chain Park featuring The Cynical Twins and Lee Bains III & the Glory Fires.