Jones College’s music department hosts Spring Recital Series

ELLISVILLE – This year’s Spring Recital Series will fill the air with a variety of music for four weeks in March and April on the Jones College campus. The musical “feast,” featuring musicians from the region and music from around the world and composed centuries ago, can be heard on Fridays in the Foote Chapel on the campus of Jones College in Ellisville. The annual Spring Recital Series begins on Friday, March 22, at 12:30 p.m. until 1 p.m., and will continue each Friday through April 19, except for Good Friday/Easter weekend. All concerts are free and open to the public.  For more information call the JC Fine Arts Department at 601-477-4203 or online at

On Friday, March 22, at 12:30 p.m. in theFoote Chapel, the Series opens with, “Songs of Love, Light, and Spring,” featuring soprano, Susan Ruggiero-Mezzadri and Brian Murphy as her piano accompanist. This delightful recital features music by George Frideric Handel, Gioachino Rossini, and Florence Price and will include well-loved soprano arias as well as lesser-known music about spring by Heitor Villa-Lobos. The program will also include a premier of a new work by American composer Luigi Zaninelli called, “Spring Song.”

Susan Ruggiero

Susan Ruggiero, Associate Professor of music at William Carey University, has performed as a principal artist with New Orleans Opera, Mississippi Opera, Kentucky Opera, Natchez Opera, Opera South, Wildwood Opera, Blue Lake Opera, and Opéra Louisiane. She is the recipient of numerous honors including Shreveport Opera’s Singer of the Year Competition (First Place), the Mozart Award in the National Orpheus Vocal Competition, two-time District Winner in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, and a Tanglewood Fellowship. Her accompanist, Brian Murphy is active as a soloist, collaborative pianist, vocal coach, and pedagogue. He has performed as a soloist and as a collaborative pianist, presenting masterclasses across the United States, Mexico, Chile, Germany, and Italy. Murphy is on faculty at William Carey University in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, where he teaches applied piano, piano-related classes and music history, as well as collaborates with singers, instrumentalists, choral ensembles, and Carey

Opera. In recognition of his teaching, Brian has been awarded four Top Music Teacher awards by Steinway and Sons.

The Friday, April 5, at 12:30 p.m. recital in the Foote Chapel, features theImpromptu Piano Trio with Borislava Iltcheva on violin, Alexander Russakovsky on cello and Theresa Sanchez playing piano. This trio has been performing together for a number of years and is featured on the Mississippi Arts Commission Touring Artist Roster.  Their program this year includes beautiful trios by Mozart and the Spanish composer, Joaquin Turina.

Theresa Sanchez, Borislava Iltcheva and Alexander Russakovsky

Borislava Iltcheva started playing the violin at age of five, earning a bachelor’s degree from the Bulgarian National Academy, and master’s and doctorate degrees in violin performance from Louisiana State University. Her principal violin teachers include Alexander Iltchev, Evgenia Maria Popova, Kevork Mardirossian and Mauricio Fuks. Borislava holds prizes from several National and International Competitions and has an active schedule as a soloist and chamber musician. She is currently an Assistant Professor of Violin at USM.

A graduate of Yale University and the University of Santa Barbara, Alexander Russakovsky has appeared in numerous solo and chamber music performances in Russia, Israel, Europe and the United States. A founding member of the Jerusalem Academy String Quartet, he also performed in the Chamber Music Series of the Spoleto Festival in Italy, the Barge Music in New York City, and the Western Slope Music Festival in Colorado. In the fall of 2001, Dr. Russakovsky joined the music faculty of the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg.

Pianist Theresa Sanchez pursues a varied performing career as a soloist and collaborative musician. She has performed as a soloist with the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra, the University of Southern Mississippi Symphony Orchestra (including the Southern Nights CD) and The Wind Ensemble. She has been a faculty member at Jones College since 1995 and is a past president of the Mississippi Music Teachers Association.  She currently serves as Classical and Chamber Music Coordinator for the Hattiesburg Concert Association and FestivalSouth and is listed on the Mississippi Arts Commission’s Touring Artist Roster. She has been named an MTNA Fellow in 2024 by the Music Teachers National Association.

A “youthful” and “brassy” program is next on the list of musical performances with the Southern Arts Brass Quintet’s program, on Friday, April 12, at 12:30 p.m. in the Foote Chapel. Their program will include music from Baroque composer Samuel Scheidt, as well as 20th century music and even a transcription of the popular, “You Make Me Feel So Young.” The quintet is comprised of trumpet players, T.J. Tesh and Rob Smith, Robert Detjen on horn with Ben McIlwain on trombone and Richard Perry playing tuba. The Southern Arts Brass Quintet is a faculty brass quintet in residence at the University of Southern Mississippi. Founded in 1972, the quintet has performed throughout Mississippi and the Southern United States. Members of the quintet are full-time artist faculty at USM.

Dr. T.J. Tesh is a Grammy-nominated trumpeter, Yamaha and Pickett Brass Performing Artist, and serves as Associate Professor of Trumpet at The University of Southern Mississippi. He relocated to Mississippi after an exciting career as a freelance trumpeter and music educator in the Los Angeles area. Dr. Tesh has enjoyed an eclectic performance career, having performed with music legends like Stevie Wonder, Natalie Cole, Quincy Jones, Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band, and many others.

Rob Smith is a doctoral student at the University of Southern Mississippi School of Music. As a performer, Smith has appeared in various performance settings spanning several styles and genres from orchestral and chamber music to jazz, pop, and contemporary music. He has performed with such groups as the Meridian Symphony Orchestra, the Pensacola Symphony Orchestra, Reno Philharmonic Orchestra, the Reno Jazz Orchestra, and many more.

Rob Detjen is the Assistant Professor of Music for Horn at the University of Southern Mississippi. He grew up in Southeast Alaska and earned his DMA from the Conservatory of Music and Dance at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Dr. Detjen is an active educator and performer and is currently serving as fourth horn of the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra and second horn of the Meridian Symphony Orchestra and Gulf Coast Symphony Orchestra.

An avid supporter of modern music, Dr. Ben McIlwain has commissioned and premiered over fifty works for trombone. A Performing Artist for S.E. Shires Trombones and Professor of Music at Southern Miss, he released his debut solo album, Indefatigable, with colleagues Ellen Elder and Jackie McIlwain in 2022. This album was named a Global Music Awards winner for Outstanding Achievement (Instrumentalist) in 2022.

Richard Perry is Associate Professor of Tuba and Euphonium at the University of Southern Mississippi, where he directs the tuba-euphonium ensemble and performs with the Southern Arts Brass Quintet. He was previously on the faculties of the University of Montevallo and Birmingham-Southern College. Dr. Perry’s primary interests are the tuba-euphonium ensemble, and the use of the tuba in jazz. He was one of the founding members of the Modern Jazz Tuba Project, a professional jazz tuba ensemble that released two critically acclaimed recordings (Live at the Bottom Line and Favorite Things).

A combination of French and Russian musical cuisine will be served up for the final event in the Spring Recital Series on Friday, April 19, at 12:30 p.m., in the Foote Chapel. The program, “Virtuosic Chamber Music: French and Russian Classics” will be performed by Kenneth Graves on clarinet, with Taylor Shorey on bassoon and accompanied by Tyler Kemp on piano. This musical delight includes two wonderful examples of chamber music works from the 19th and 20th Century, respectively, that showcases the virtuosity and beauty of these instruments. The program is a collaboration of several local professional musicians and teachers living in the Jackson area.

Kenneth Graves is the Principal Clarinet of the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra and Meridian Symphony Orchestra. Kenneth graduated from the College-Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati where he studied with Richie Hawley. He also completed a Master of Music degree at the University of Southern California and additional post-graduate studies at the Colburn School where he studied with Yehuda Gilad. As a concerto soloist, he has performed with orchestras across the South including performances with the Alabama, Pensacola, and Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestras, and he has held fellowships at the Music Academy of the West, National Repertory Orchestra, and the National Orchestral Institute.

Taylor Shorey is the Principal Bassoonist of the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra and the Mississippi Symphony Wind Quintet. Prior to his time in Mississippi, Taylor performed regularly as a freelance musician from coast to coast, appearing with Orchestras throughout the Midwest, North Florida, Washington DC, Honolulu and Los Angeles metro areas. In his studies, Taylor attended Florida State University, The Colburn Conservatory, and the Cincinnati College- Conservatory of Music studying with Jeff Keesecker, Richard Beene, Martin Garcia and Christopher Sales respectively. During his time at the Colburn School Taylor attended the National Repertory Orchestra in Breckenridge Colorado, where he performed as a featured soloist with the orchestra.

Tyler Kemp is a pianist, collaborator, and music director based in Jackson. Known for artistry and creativity in a wide range of musical styles and genres, he is at home in classical, musical theatre, jazz, pop, and worship music. Kemp maintains an active performance calendar, works on the music faculty at Mississippi College, and he serves as worship director at Bellwether Church. He earned degrees in Piano Performance (B.M. and M.M.) from Mississippi College. 

Jones College’s spring Blood Drive exceeds goals

Mize sophomore JC student, David Garner donates blood.

ELLISVILLE – Jones College’s community-wide spring blood drive was a big success. Eighty-one units of blood was collected over two days, Monday, February 26, and on Tuesday, February 27. Students like Petal’s James Leggett gave for the first time while sophomore David Garner of Mize said he has donated blood in high school.

“I wasn’t planning on giving today but I met this lady out on the plaza, and she talked me into donating. This is really convenient having the mobile unit near the Student Center Plaza and the Student Union,” said Garner.

Nursing majors, William Dycus of Whistler and Britton Dunnam of Greene County are regular blood donors for similar reasons; they just want to help people. It was only the second time to donate for freshman Ashlynn Conerly from Columbia. However, her reasons were very similar in just wanting to give. These students along with faculty, staff and community members helped to exceed the goal for the blood drive, making coordinators very happy with the turnout.

Columbia’s Ashlynn Conerly and Phelbotomist Supervisor, Jasmine McSwain.

Dr. Benji Sessums, Jones College Blood Drive Coordinator, and EMT instructor said the overall goal for the two-day blood drive was 65 units of blood and to have 81 units was a nice surprise.  Vitalant’s Michelle Anderson-Jones said she attributes the success of the blood drive to the “Jones Magic.” Two Mobile Blood Units were used over the two-day blood drive located in different locations across campus. Every donor received a T-shirt and was eligible for Door Prizes.

Jones College’s Music & Theater Departments presents, “Grease” 

ELLISVILLE – The first musical theater production held in Jones College’s newly remodeled M.P. Bush Auditorium will be the iconic Broadway hit and movie, “Grease” on Friday, April 5 & 6, at 7 p.m., with a Sunday April 7, matinee at 2 p.m. Jones College students who performed in the production 20-years ago are invited to enjoy a class reunion of sorts at Rydell High School, the place in 1950’s Chicago that writer Jim Jacobs developed the characters and setting for the musical, “Grease.”

JCJC 2004 yearbook

“We’re trying to find the JC theater alumni from 2003-2004 and try to incorporate them into the show. They need to contact me, Bruce Smith at if they want to be a part of the show,” said Bruce Smith, Dean of the College of Art, Music and Performing Arts.

Ironically, Smith never intended to direct the musical production of Grease because of his close connection to the writer, Jim Jacobs. The JCJC 1990 graduate, played the character, “Doody” when the musical toured nationally 30 years ago.

“I worked directly with Jim Jacobs and when the tour ended, I said I would not bring this to the stage since it was so close to me,” shared Smith. “I think it’s ironic, and a lot of people don’t know this, but these characters are based on Jacob’s friends in real life and the real events that took place in their lives.”

Jessie Deare, Kami Carter, Kiandra “Kiki” Lopez, Sydney Ivey, Aliyah Watts and Taylor Garretson

Twenty-seven Jones College students will be dancing and singing Broadway’s most memorable songs of the 50’s. Also, the chart-topping songs from the hit 1978 movie starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, including, “Summer Nights,” “Hopelessly Devoted to You,” and “Greased Lightnin’” will also bring the audience back to this popular time period.

“Some of the language has been modified, so it’s not a rough musical, but these characters are inner city Chicago kids that grew up in the 1950s. Their take on life was a little bit tougher than the average high school student,” said Smith.

Eli Carter, Daniel Baldwin, Nick Singleterry, Seth Walker and Silas Ensign

Playing the role made famous by Travolta, “Danny Zuko” will be performed by JC sophomore electrical technology major from Oak Grove, Nicholas Singleterry. His favorite role in the Warriors of Oak Grove theater was playing the larger-than-life creature, “Shrek.” However, Danny admitted, he is a lot like his character in Grease.

“I like how nonchalant Danny is because he just kicks back and does whatever he feels needs to be done,” said Singleterry. “I also hope the audience enjoys the nostalgic music.”

In her first appearance at Jones College’s musical theater production, Sumrall’s Jessie Deare plays the role of Danny’s girlfriend, Sandy, made popular by Newton-John. As a member of the Legacy show choir and singing in the drama club at Sumrall High School, Deare is a member of all three choirs at JC and plans to enroll in the nursing program next fall. When Deare walked into class, Smith said he knew she would play Sandy because she looks and sings like Sandy.

Jessie Dear as Sandy, Nick Singleterry as Danny, Eli Carter as Keneckie and Kiandra “Kiki” Lopez.

“I’m very excited and a little nervous but as we keep going, I’m getting more excited,” said Deare. “I’ve always wanted to be in theater but never had the opportunity to do so in high school because of my busy schedule. My dream has always been to be on Broadway.”

Playing Rizzo is Laurel freshman, Kiandra Lopez who is a member of all three choirs at JC. At West Jones High School, Lopez played the evil stepmother in her high school’s play, Cinderella. Playing the “bad girl” role is something she said she enjoys and thrives on.

Kami Carter, Aliyah Watts, Kiandra “Kiki” Lopez and Sydney Ivey

“I feel like I can really get into my Hispanic side for these types of roles,” said Lopez. “I can be a little spicy with it.”

Smith shared, “Lopez is a little Cuban spitfire. She’s like this in real life too. She’s this tiny, sweet little fireball on stage but when you put the wig on her, she is Rizzo. She rolls her eyes the right way, she’s nonchalant; she’s the character.”

Keneckie’s character, the cool car guy is played by music industry major from Collins, Eli Carter who was in Jones College’s original musical theater review last spring, “STARCROSSED.” Just like his character, Carter works on cars at his dad’s shop, Classic Auto Sales and is a rising musician.

Tickets for general admission are $15, and $10 for Jones College employees and students, if using the emailed code in February. For the first time, all tickets are now available for purchase only through a new, ticketing service on the website,  

“Having this ticketing service is a game changer for us as far as being able to do bigger shows and events here on campus. It is opening the door for us as a venue for concerts and other things,” said Smith. “The online ticketing service also allows guests to choose their seats way in advance, which are also reserved, just like other ticketing services for concerts and movies.”

Purchasing tickets now, before the show sells out is encouraged with a maximum of 1100 seats available for each performance. Ads in the JC Playbill program are also available for businesses to purchase through the College of Arts, Music and Performance. Check the Jones College Arts, Music, and Performance website and social media pages for details prior to the performance. For more information about the Jones College Arts, Music and Performance department, call 601-477-4203.

Cast, Crew and Ensemble

Nicholas Singleterry-Oak Grove, “Danny Zuko”

Jessie Deare-Sumrall, “Sandy”

Eli Carter-Collins, “Kenickie”

Kiandra Lopez-Laurel, “Rizzo”

Kameron Carter-Columbia, “Frenchy”

Aliyah Watts-Sandy Hook, “Marty”

Sydney Ivey-Raleigh, “Jan”

Daniel Baldwin-Magee, “Doody”

Silas Ensign-Laurel, “Sonny”

Seth Walker-Laurel, “Roger”

Bryce Jasper-Laurel, “Vince Fontaine

Kelly Biglane-Ellisville, “Cha-Cha”

Isaiah Spradley-Laurel, “Johnny Casino”

Matthew Taylor-Richland, “Eugene Florczyk

Sydnee Tisdale-Ellisville, “Miss Lynch”

Taylor Garretson-Leakesville, “Patty Simcox”

Antarian Chapman-Hebron, “Teen Angel”

Bailie Bishop-Soso, Ensemble

Britton Dunnam-Sandhill, Ensemble

Tristen Goss-Morton, Ensemble

Ella Jolly-Petal, Ensemble

Samantha Jordan-Ocean Springs, Ensemble

Dasia Newell-Sandersville, Ensemble

Danielle Parker-Laurel, Ensemble

Kailand Snow-Laurel, Ensemble

Sydney Starbuck-Bay Springs, Ensemble

Kira Stokes-Waynesboro, Ensemble

Director-Bruce Smith

Assistant Director & Choreographer-Brett Barnes

Sound & Lights-Jacob Arnold

Audio Engineer-T.J. May,

Stage Manager-Sam Griffith, Ellisville

Set Construction, Costumes & Props-Tristen Goss, Kailand Snow, Sydney Ivy, and Kiandra Lopez.

Publicity/Advertising-Assistants, Danielle Parker-Laurel and Sydney Starbuck -Raleigh.

The Erin and Ben Napier School of Design and Building Construction at Jones College

ELLISVILLE – During a recent episode of HGTV’s Home Town, featuring the renovation of Jones College’s Old President’s House on the Ellisville campus by two of JC’s famous alumni, Ben and Erin Napier of Laurel, Jones College President, Dr. Jesse Smith announced a new program to be named in the couple’s honor. An old factory building, which currently houses maintenance and housekeeping departments, along with storage will be transformed into a centralized home for training future craftsmen to help rebuild hometowns across the country, called the Erin and Ben Napier School of Design and Building Construction.

“Watching them and seeing the growth that happens in the towns where their show goes, it’s impressive to see and we’ve learned a lot,” said Smith. “Those trades and those craftsmen’s skill sets are art and a craft that’s been lost. We want to reemphasize and teach those skills in a centralized location.”

Napier’s emotional response to the announcement during their show sparked support for the facility with donations through the Jones College Foundation. Smith anticipates the 14-million-dollar project will be partially funded through federal and state money, with private donations driving the project. The Napier’s emphasized the difficulty in finding local craftsmen while renovating houses in the Laurel area, during the announcement of this project.

“We are about 564 jobs short in our district in the construction trades industry, which consists of Clarke, Covington, Greene, Jasper, Jones, Perry, Smith, and Wayne Counties,” Smith explained. “Some people might not think construction trades make a great career but most of these entrepreneurs do very well and it’s a great life. We are very dependent on these craftsmen and artisans here, to keep the college going. We’re building for the future.”

Programs included in the new Napier’s school include Computerized Design, Graphic Design, Interior Design, Painting, Foundations, Plumbing, Framing, Roofing, Electrical, Masonry, HVAC, Carpentry, Metalworking, Plastering, and Stonework. Many of these programs are currently available for students, however, Smith said having the programs in a centralized location encourages students to collaborate on projects.

Location of new Erin and Ben Napier School of Design and Building Construction.

“We want to rebuild hometowns all over America. Small towns help make America great,” said Smith. “We are so grateful to Ben and Erin because they are restoring hope that we can rebuild our hometowns that are so near and dear to us. They are making a difference.”

Classes in the new building are expected to begin in the fall of 2026 when the 35,435 square foot facility is anticipated to be completed. An additional 18,500 square feet will be added to the current 19,000-square-foot former factory building to create the new Napier’s School.

“We are so honored,” said Erin Napier during the college’s “Live Viewing” of the episode when the announcement was made on their show. “We love Jones so much and to know this is going to be in the future plans for Jones, thank you! This is critically important because the trades are vital to us. We struggle to find great, talented people who do things like plaster work for example.”

To learn more about the Erin and Ben Napier School of Building and Design and to make donations go to the website,

Jones College FBLA students head to national competition

ELLISVILLE – Twelve of the thirteen Jones College students that competed in the Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) State competition in Senatobia, Mississippi, came home winners. They all placed first or second in their competitive events, qualifying them for national competition in June, in Orlando, Florida. During the three-day conference, each student competed in two business-related events. The events ranged from Fundamentals of Accounting and Economics to Foundations of Technology and Public Speaking.

“Twelve of the students will be going to the four-day national conference and competition in Orlando,” said Jones College’s FBLA Advisor, David Ray.  “These students worked very hard, and we are excited to see what they can do at the national level this summer”.

Matthew Taylor of Richland earned first place honors in Foundations of Entrepreneurship and Entrepreneurship Pitch Competition. Rebecca Parker of Laurel, placed first in Future Business Executive. Rebecca also partnered with Jaythan Comegys of Laurel to earn second place in the State of Chapter event showcasing Jones FBLA clubs’ accomplishments for the year. Jaythan added a first place in Impromptu Speech and he and Barbara Ahlvin of Vicksburg placed first in Emerging Business Issues. Ahlvin also placed third in the Job Interview category. Seminary’s Ethan Noffke took home first place in Foundations of Technology and also teamed up with Ethan Hammons of Raleigh and Logan Ingram of Raleigh to earn first place in the Technology and Computer Science Case Study. Noffke also placed first in Foundations of Computer Science. Lance Hamilton of Waynesboro placed first in Public Speaking. Laurel’s Raegan Drummer received first place in Retail Management and second place in Foundations of Computer Science. Walker Dear of Florence placed second in Foundations of Entrepreneurship. Laurel’s Deja Baskin placed second in Computer Applications. Quitman’s Terry Rogers placed second in Public Speaking and Impromptu Speaking.