Cathy Northington shares how Jones College students can be leaders making a difference

ELLISVILLE – Mississippi Economic Council COO, Cathy Northington spent a morning at Jones College recently sharing how Jones College students can be leaders who make a difference as the guest speaker for the college’s annual Black History Leadership program. Despite the many obstacles in her way, like leaving college to have a child and being raised by her grandmother, Northington discovered a way to be a leader in her field.

“I remember complaining to my grandmother, ‘I’m tired and I want to stop working. I don’t feel like my voice is being heard the way I wanted it to be heard,’” explained Northington to Jones students. “My no-nonsense grandma in her meek and mild manner told me, ‘It’s not about you. It’s about what you can do for others.’ That was the gut punch I needed.  At that moment I knew that I needed to lead to make a difference.”

The Jackson native studied marketing at Mississippi College and graduated from the Institute for Organization Management, an intensive four-year nonprofit leadership training program conducted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce at the University of Georgia. She was able to rise to the top as Chief Operating Officer of the MEC, Mississippi’s leading and largest broad-based business organization, working part-time before becoming MEC’s Senior Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer and current COO, because of that “defining moment” with her grandmother.  She decided to become a leader who is teachable, compassionate and empathetic. As the, Our Mississippi Magazine’s and the Women’s Fund, 2018 Business Woman of the Year, Northington applied her grandmother’s wisdom to become a successful leader.

“Being a leader is one of the hardest jobs and it’s also one of the most rewarding…. In order to be teachable, you have to understand you’re never too old to learn. You have to care about those that you’re leading to being compassionate. If you are empathetic, it’s not always easy, but you have to allow yourself to be vulnerable. To whom much is given, much is required. Serve, even when you’re not getting paid to serve.”

She challenged the audience to consider the “pearls” of wisdom they can leave and collect, as well as what kind of blessings they can leave behind. Coordinator of the event and Jones College’s assistant to the president for corporate training, Dr. Samuel Jones, added we can all learn from each other, but we also have to discover our purpose in life to impact our surroundings.

“There is a purpose for everything. I encourage you students to find the purpose in all of your challenges, in all of your struggles and in everything you face in this thing called life, because this is what leading to make a difference is all about,” said Dr. Jones.

Northington also urged students to get out of their comfort zones and be disciplined to make the soundtrack of their lives what they want it to be; positive or negative.

Jones College’s Symphonic Band kicks off concert season

ELLISVILLE- Jones College’s Symphonic Band recently performed before 500 middle and high school students from the region at the annual Southeast Mississippi Band Director’s Association’s (SEMBDA) annual band clinic. This annual event kicks off the concert season for the 60 member group which will conclude with a Thursday, April 4, performance at 7 p.m. in the M.P. Bush Fine Arts Auditorium at Jones College.

Next weekend, February 8-9, Jones College will host its own Band Clinic for area middle and high school musicians. The JC Jazz band will be performing while students audition to learn their band assignments.
The JC Band Clinic’s concert will be at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, February 9, at Jones College. For more information contact Jones College’s Director of Bands, Dr. Ben Burge at 601-477-4095 or email

Jones College Symphonic Band Members


+Scarlett Sandifer, Laurel

Sarah Suttle, Petal

Kemberly Freeman, Ellisville

Lynda Bazor, Perry Central


+Hayley Jackson, Germantown

Bria Sims, Laurel

Lauryn Heidelberg, Laurel

Taylor Gates, Magee

Ariel Smith, Hattiesburg

Breanna Garrard, Hattiesburg

Sidney Lee, Ellisville

Tyrikus Hayes, Quitman

Haleigh Fitzgerald, Pearl

Bass Clarinet:

+Baylee Walter, Richland

James Smith, Jr., Hattiesburg

Alto Saxophone:

+Joshua Anderson, Greene County

Brandon Pedersen, Petal

Brandi Cooley, George County

Max Burge, Hattiesburg

Emerald Meadows, Richton

John Harrison, Laurel

Tenor Saxophone:

+Blake Pryor, Laurel

Caitlyn Holifield, Laurel

Baritone Saxophone:

+Sydney Herrington, Enterprise


+Ryan Nowell, Ellisville

Logan Donald, Ellisville

Matthew Dodd, Petal

Hunter Gammill, Hattiesburg

Nicholas May, Mendenhall

Michael Brown, Laurel

Daniel Easley, Petal


+Jorge Castillo, Ellisville

Haley Young, Vancleave

Lauren Flynt, Soso

Chrissi Millwood, Brandon


+Brandon Broome, Sumrall

Bryce Cooper, Wayne County

Hayden Brewer, Wayne County

Clay Whitt, Vancleave

Linda Echenique, Laurel

Cameron Graves, Petal

Bass Trombone:

+Bethany Miller, Ellisville


+Buster Jarrell, Ellisville

Amouri Jones, Laurel

Miracle Smith, Quitman


+Cooper Mangum, Morton

Nathan Terry, Hattiesburg

Caitlyn Robinson, Richton


Keith Briggs, Ocean Springs

Amanda Flynn, Petal

Austin Lee, Purvis

Clouzell Leggett, Oak Grove

Elizabeth Morrison, Long Beach

Mackenzie Parish, Hattiesburg

Mary Helen Sherman, Pass Christian

Amy Spears, Seminary

Sage Touchstone, Hattiesburg

Derrick Williams, Laurel

String Bass:

Matthew Haight, Mobile, AL





Jones College’s Theater Department presents, “Hairspray” 

ELLISVILLE- Jones College’s theater production of “Hairspray” is taking audiences back to the ’60s when the beehive and the flipped-bob hairdo’s were popular and social problems erupted. Star-struck teenybopper, Traci Turnblad, played by Kassidy Chandler of Laurel, takes the audience on an adventure to see her dream of dancing on a TV show and dating the popular heartthrob, Link Larkin, played by James Bilbo of Ellisville, come to life. Along the way, Traci is exposed to a world with racial tensions and change on the horizon. While poking fun at the stereotypes of the era, JC’s production of “Hairspray” with its catchy tunes and clever lyrics features a talented cast of more than 35 students, a live orchestra and a couple of seasoned pros. “Hairspray” is produced and directed by JC theater instructor, Jennifer Bruton, and she is assisted by musical performer, Bruce Smith.

“We chose “Hairspray” because we wanted something familiar, fresh and really fun! This is a high-energy show with a big and very diverse cast. The students made our casting decisions very difficult since over 60 of them auditioned! The administration has been incredibly encouraging and we’re receiving additional support from across the campus, from set construction to styling wigs!” said Bruton.

This year, an additional performance includes opening night on Thursday, February 28, at 7 p.m. The cast will perform two shows on Saturday, March 2, at 2:30 and at 7 p.m.  The final performance of “Hairspray” will be Sunday, March 3, at 2:30 p.m. in the M. P. Bush Fine Arts Auditorium on the JC campus in Ellisville. Tickets are $5 for children 17 and under and $10 for adults with free admission for JC students and faculty with a valid ID. Tickets can be purchased at the door. The movie version was rated PG, however parents should use their discretion for children younger than middle school. For more information, please contact Jennifer Bruton at 601-477-2675 or email her at,

The Broadway musical “Hairspray” is based on the John Waters movie and is a winner of eight Tony awards. Set in Baltimore in the early 1960s, “Hairspray” challenges the audience to see all the characters as equals regardless of race, size, or gender. While at the WZZT-TV studios, host Corny Collins played by the seasoned performer, Bruce Smith of Ellisville and Motormouth Maybelle, played by JC student, Denise McAddo of Bay Springs, spin the tunes that all the hippest kids are dancing to.

“I am so excited to be involved with Jones College Fine Arts,” said Bruce Smith who graduated from Jones in 1990 and performed in both of the college’s musicals. “The experience helped me prepare for a career in music and I am so excited to see this same thing happen for the students now. Jones was such a wonderful launching pad to prepare me.”

Also, joining the student cast is former JC Theater and USM graduate, Harlan Mapp of Hattiesburg as Traci’s mother, Edna Turnblad.

“The role of Edna has always been on my list of roles I would love to play simply because it’s so offbeat and different. She’s a big woman and loads of fun!” said Mapp. “Most importantly, I get the chance to interact with students who are in the same place I was just three years ago.  I hope I can impact their theatrical lives like Joe Vanzandt did for me when he joined the cast of ‘Smoke on the Mountain’ when I was at JC.”

Tracy Turnblad is played by Laurel’s Kassidy Chandler, who is debuting on the Jones stage, however, she is a familiar face to audiences attending productions at West Jones High School and the Laurel Little Theatre. The musical, “Hairspray” drew her back to performing Chandler explained.

“This is one of my favorite musicals of all time because it is a really fun show with a great message. After taking some time off from performing, I began to really miss it.  When I found out the musical was going to be ‘Hairspray’ I knew this was the show I wanted to get back into performing in musical theater,” Chandler said.

Also new to the Jones stage is Columbia’s, Lane Smith. The freshman has performed in several musicals at Columbia High School and couldn’t pass up the chance to play Tracy’s dad, Wilbur Turnblad.

“I haven’t had many challenges figuring out Wilber Turnblad. He is a very loving father and husband to Tracy and Edna and wants nothing more than to provide for his family. I am so honored to get to portray this loyal, lovable character who I can really relate to,” said Smith.

A couple of regulars on the Jones College stage, Davonzell Moncrief of Montrose and Kendra Stevison of Lucedale, have important roles in the musical. Moncrief plays Seaweed Stubbs, the African American boy who teaches Tracy some dance moves to help her reach her dream.  He also begins dating Tracy’s friend, Penny Pingleton played by Stevison, which sparks a little conflict.

“Seaweed, who is probably the most controversial character in this production because of his race and his relationship with the young ingénue Penny Pingleton, is very similar to me. We share many characteristics except he is a dancer and I am not! The dancing is probably the most difficult part for me but I do get to do a few splits on stage and after much practice, I am discovering I do have a few moves!” said Moncrief.

Another pivotal character, Velma Von Tussle, portrayed by freshman, Lauren Hankins of Laurel, is the villainess of the musical.  She is the racist producer of The Corny Collins Show and attempts to keep Tracy from integrating and dancing on the show.

“To portray Velma, I had to keep in mind that she is a character that everyone hates.  She is very intimidating and she’s not a redeemable character, but usually, the ‘villain’ roles are the most fun to play!” said Hankins, who has been performing at the Laurel Little Theater and Encore Performing Arts Theater since she was five-years-old. “Velma is racist and that’s definitely something I don’t believe in. I have to remember that it was a different time and that it’s all acting.”

In addition to the many singers, dancers and musicians performing live, Bruton said many audience members often don’t realize that none of it can happen without an incredible amount of work behind the scenes.

“We want our students to know that the entertainment industry is a great career path for Jones College graduates. Theatres need welders, electricians, sound engineers, costume designers, and a host of other talented people; not just actors and singers,” Bruton explained.

For a look at rehearsal pictures, find the Facebook page, Jones College Musical Theatre, and the hashtag, #YouCantStoptheBobcats.

Cast of Hairspray 1-19

Tracy Turnblad – Kassidy Chandler, Laurel

Edna Turnblad- Special Guest-Harlan Mapp

Wilbur Turnblad – Lane Smith, Columbia

Penny Pingleton – Kendra Stevison, Lucedale

Purdy Pingleton/mom – Kalyn Bales, Stringer

Link Larkin – James Bilbo, Ellisville

Corny Collins-Special Guest- Bruce Smith

Seaweed J Stubbs – Davonzell Moncrief, Montrose

Little Inez – Avyana Russell, Houston, TX

Motormouth Maybelle – Denise McAdoo, Bay Springs

Motormouth Ensemble – Lacoby Keys, Moselle

Motormouth Ensemble – Zyion Pittman, Soso

Motormouth Ensemble – James “Mikey” Smith, Hattiesburg

Motormouth Ensemble – Derrick Williams, Laurel

Motormouth Ensemble – Nathaniel Gamblin, Waynesboro

Dynamite, Shayna – Keara Altman, Quitman

Dynamite, Kamilah – Auddsey Dantzler, Hattiesburg

Dynamite, Judine – Reagan Dukes, Laurel

Mr. Pinky/IQ – Jorge Castillo, Ellisville

Velma Von Tussle – Lauren Hankins, Laurel

Amber von Tussle – Addison Nelms, Brandon

Stooie & Seaweed Understudy – Khalil Herron, Laurel

Cindy & Little Inez Understudy – Jada Abraham, Brandon

Brenda – Coco Caldwell, Laurel

Duane – Krimel Chandler, Liberty

Gilbert – DeMoyndre Morgan, Houston, TX

Lorraine – KaLisha Carter, Waynesboro

Louann – Kamryn McGee, Hattiesburg

Shelley – Shaylee Thames, Petal

Spritzer – Caleb Pearce, Ellisville

Tammy – Sydney James, Waynesboro

Council/extra – Ella Barker, Hattiesburg

Council/extra – Jordan Butler, Ellisville

Beatnik/extra Pinkie – Layne Boykin, Waynesboro

Guard/flasher/Hotdog Vendor – Joshua Anderson, Leakesville

Pinkie/extra/matron – Lexie Floyd, Quitman

Principal/Bum – Matthew Haight, Mobile, AL

Gym teacher/Old lady – Emily Howard, Hattiesburg

Cathy Northington, Mississippi Economic Council  COO speaks at Jones College’s Black History Program

ELLISVILLE – Jones College’s Office of Student Affairs will be hosting its annual Black History Leadership program on Tuesday, February 12, at 10 a.m. in the JC Fine Arts Auditorium.  The public is invited to attend this free event to hear featured guest speaker and COO of the Mississippi Economic Council, Cathy Northington. She will speak on this year’s event theme, “Leading to Make a Difference.”

“I believe Cathy is a perfect example of taking challenges and adversity in life and turning them into something positive. Everyone needs to be reminded of the gifts, skills and talents that they’ve been blessed with and to use them to help others around them. Leaders like Cathy are definitely making a difference in our communities and I thought that her story and experience would be a great reminder for our campus community,” said coordinator of the event and Jones College’s assistant to the president for corporate training, Dr. Samuel Jones.

Before being named the Chief Operating Officer for the state’s largest broad-based business organization, Northington served the MEC as Senior Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer. She began at the MEC more than fifteen years ago as a part-time employee and has continued to work her way up by managing a variety of key projects and programs. Since 2007, she has directed the nations’ second-oldest leadership program, Leadership Mississippi. Northington and her team also manage the MEC’s three major meetings: The MEC Annual Meeting, the MEC Hobnob Mississippi and the MEC Capital Day, which hosts more than 1,500 business and community leaders, and elected officials.

The Jackson native studied marketing at Mississippi College and is a graduate of the Institute for Organization Management, an intensive four-year nonprofit leadership training program conducted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce at the University of Georgia. Northington also enjoys giving back to the community through her volunteer work as a member of the Junior League of Jackson, United Way of the Capital Area and American Heart Association’s Circle of Red. A mother of three, Northington is also a member of the Madison Ridgeland Rotary Club and a board member of the R.E.A.L. Christian Foundation.

Some of the honors Northington has received include being chosen as the Our Mississippi Magazine 2018’s Business Women of the Year, the Women’s Fund 2018 Business Woman of the Year, the 2017 Young Gifted and Empowered Leader of the Year, Savvy Magazine’s 2016 Leader of the Year, a 2012 recipient of the Mississippi Business Journal’s Top 40 Under 40 award, and she was a member of the Mississippi Business Journal’s 50 Leading Business Women in Mississippi for 2014.

An “eye” opening art exhibit on display at Jones College inspires young artists

ELLISVILLE – Jackson native and current Hattiesburg artist, Traci Stover’s collection, “Scrutiny: Portraiture Through the Eye,” has become an eye-opening experience for Jones College students. The exhibit, on display at Jones College’s Eula Bass Lewis Art Gallery on the Ellisville campus until February 8, takes a unique look at the human eye. The art professor’s close-up of what many call the “window to a person’s soul” began while painting a portrait with 12 family members. Stover’s desire to see the details on each person’s face, especially the eyes created an intense interest which led to stranger’s requesting her to paint their eye. That process, Stover explained during an “Art Talk” for Jones College art majors, also allowed her to learn how to use materials in a new and different way.

“Flemish artists, Jan van Eyck and Roger van der Weyden inspire me with their ability to blend intense observation with a compassionate acknowledgment of the person before them.  They used oil paints, which were a relatively new medium at the time, and they most surely used mirrors and lenses to aid them in their observations,” said Stover. “I also use the glazing technique of painting thin transparent layers over paint, stacking up layers through each other. I also use the traditional oil paint and the modern acrylic paint to create the eye on a square canvas, usually from a picture.”

As she discussed the process of focusing closely, investigating the eye and how it conveys so much about a person, Jones College students began noticing more about each eye-portrait on display.  In some eyes, like in the close-up portrait of “Alejandro,” the photographer’s image can be seen. In addition to the many different expressions and personalities revealed in the images of the eye, Stover said her mood is also reflected in the painting.

“I’m not just copying photographs of eyes.  I’m thinking about the person. In ‘Sam’s’ case, she was going through a difficult time dealing with the loss of her brother, boyfriend and now her cancer diagnosis.  I think about how I feel about them and it is often reflected in the portrait of their eye,” Stover shared.

“You’re looking deep into their eyes. As you’re painting, it starts off with lines, then as you are playing with paint it becomes more like an eye and it feels like it’s looking back at you, but you start learning more about that eye and that’s interesting.”

That insight was an illuminating discovery for Centerville’s Alaysia Montgomery. The freshmen art major said Stover’s style has changed her view of painting and art overall.

“It is inspiring to me to know art can be more than just drawing a picture but also showing emotion. My next drawing will show more emotion. It will reflect the emotions embodied in the subject I paint,” said Montgomery.

For more information about the JC art show contact the gallery at 601-477-4148 or visit the gallery which is open Monday through Thursday, 8:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m., and Friday from 8:00 a.m. until 2:30 p.m.  The gallery is closed for lunch daily from 11:30 until noon.  If you want to know more about the Jones College Fine Arts Department check out the JC Fine Arts Facebook page at JCJCFineArts.