Musical Gumbo


The USM School of Music will soon play host to Mississippi Musical Gumbo, a unique event that will feature faculty performances of pieces from a collection of composers with Mississippi ties.

The name of the event emphasizes the variety of the pieces that will be performed.

Associate professor of music theory Joe Brumbeloe said, “[The concert includes] a really broad range of pieces, from Broadway show-tunes to some that are actually kind of austere and severe and everything in between.”

The concert will include vocal, piano, solo guitar and percussion performances from USM faculty members, students and guest artists.

The event will open with performances of two contrasting pieces by Milton Babbit, a composer who grew up in Jackson, Mississippi and studied at Princeton University.

Brumbeloe said the event was inspired by the upcoming 100th anniversary of Babbit’s birth.

Associate professor of piano Elizabeth Moak will be accompanying another faculty member, professor Kimberley Davis, on “Songs of Separation,” a collection of works by William Grant Still, an early 20th century composer from Woodville, Mississippi.

Moak said Davis specifically wanted to include Still in the event.

“He is very, very interesting because he is probably the first African-American composer to make it in the classical world,” Moak said.

The final piece, “Nostalgic Dances,” was composed by USM artist-in=residence James Sclater and will feature nine university student percussionists.

“It’s like a fox trot and waltz, kind of reminiscent of 40’s dance hall music,” Brumbeloe said.

Senior music education major Andrew Hunckler said he is looking forward to performing the piece with his peers.

I think what makes this piece special is that it contains its own musical ‘gumbo’ within itself,” Hunckler said. “Each movement of this piece explores a different iconic dance that everyone is familiar with. Mr. Zaninelli always puts his heart and past experiences into his music and it is always a joy and honor to be able to perform it.”

Moak said she looks forward not only to being a part of the event, but also to being able to experience and listen to other works and other performers.

“I’m looking forward to hearing the mix of the gumbo,” Moak said.

The event will take place in Marsh Auditorium on January 28 at 7:30 pm and is free and open to the public.