Mississippi School of the Arts is in full swing as students from every region of our state join their class as juniors and seniors to complete an advanced arts education. Candlelight Dinner, a tradition held every year, marked the end of the official first day of school at MSA. After a week long of orientation sessions and workshops, students assembled in ThePhoenix for an evening dinner by candlelight. The menu: Steak and chicken, vegetables, baked potato, salad, tea, lemon pie, and more.

After dinner, Suzanne Hirsch (Executive Director) introduced special guest Wendy Clemons, the director of the state’s special schools at Mississippi Department of Education. Special schools include Mississippi School for the Deaf, Mississippi School for the Blind, Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science, and Mississippi School of the Arts. “I have over 20 years of experience as a principal and you guys and girls are amazing,” said Clemons. The MDE administrator spoke to students about the importance of doing their best and what their chosen arts discipline will mean for the rest of our state, the nation, and world.

Seniors entering the school year with the highest GPA in each discipline were recognized: Britany Castilaw in Literary Arts, Alison Brown in Media Arts, Demi Doty in Vocal Music, Emma Siler in Theatre, Junyla Silmon in Dance, and Abigail Jordon in Visual Arts. The seniors each lit a candle and passed on the light to students in the audience. After recognition, students walked to the campus bell tower where they sung the school’s alma mater. “The bell, which dates back to the early 1920’s was used to signify the end of the school day and return to the dorm at Whitworth College,” said Hirsch. The evening ended with a candlelight social gathering in the common area of the historic campus.

MSA continues to thrive in arts excellence on one of the oldest educational campuses in Mississippi. Originally Whitworth Women’s College in 1858, the campus grounds have supported arts education since the beginning of the American Civil War. The oldest building in existence is Johnson Institute, built in 1883. Legislated in 1999, the grounds of Whitworth became Mississippi School of the Arts, a public residential high school for fine arts serving talented students from all over our state. Students audition during their sophomore year in high school and (if accepted) are admitted to the school for their junior and senior year. Click here for more information.

MSA would like to thank Wendy Clemons as special guest from Mississippi Department of Education and the MSA food service staff for a wonderful event in ThePhoenix: Cindy King (director), Cynthia Keys, Mary McCall, Karen Smith, Sharon Maxwell, Angela Scarbrough, and Nikeshia May.


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