Bringing Scholarships and Music to Mississippi

Allen Bush
April 8, 2011
The Berklee Mississippi Music Exchange Band includes Eric Finland, Noe Socha, professor Lenny Stallworth, and Jazz Robertson.
Photo Alexandria Pierre-Etienne

The Berklee Mississippi Music Exchange trades education, music, and culture between Boston's Berklee College of Music, the Mississippi Delta, and other parts of the state. Since 2008, the exchange has awarded six musical teens full scholarships to attended Berklee's Five-Week Summer Performance Program.  Berklee students also benefit from the exchange, learning from Mississippi musicians who have visited campus or from their own travels into the state's deep blues legacies and rich cultural history. 

Berklee faculty, staff, and students will make the annual sojourn to Mississippi, April 13 - 16. Their agenda includes performances at various venues, touring blues and civil rights sites with a local historian, and awarding summer scholarships. There are two opportunities for young musicians to audition for the scholarships. 

On Wednesday, April 13 at 2:00 p.m., singers and instrumentalists from Copiah County can audition at the Crystal Springs High School Auditorium. The winner of the scholarship will be announced at the conclusion of the auditions. The Berklee Mississippi Exchange Band will perform and group members will discuss music education and career preparation. The event is presented in partnership with the Robert Johnson Blues Foundation

On Thursday, April 14, at 3:30 p.m., at the Clarksdale Sound Stage, 313 Issaquena, singers and instrumentalists from Coahoma County can audition for the Kathryn Graham/Juke Joint/Miss Del's Music Scholarship. The winner will be announced at the Juke Joint Festival on Saturday, April 16, at 7:00 p.m., at Ground Zero Blues Club, Clarksdale, during a performance by the Exchange Band.    

In addition, Berklee partners with Clarksdale's Delta Blues Museum to audition and award one scholarship to a deserving student from the museum's Arts and Education Program. This audition is not open the public. The recipient will be announced on April 16 at the Juke Joint Festival in Clarksdale.

Mississippi Exchange scholars who have attended Berklee's Five-Week Summer Performance Program have brought their performance skills to new heights. Two received scholarships to return to Berklee.

Lenny Stallworth, bassist and an assistant professor in the Ensemble Department, is the director of the Berklee Mississippi Music Exchange Band. He is a native of Moss Point, Mississippi. The group's student members are drummer Jazz Robertson, from Sewickley, Pennsylvania, keyboardist Eric Finland, from McLean Virginia, and guitarist Noe Socha, from Carpi, Italy. 

On April 15, the Exchange Band will visit Ruleville Central High School for a clinic and performance hosted by the B. B. King Museum, and then play a public concert at the Museum in Iindianola at 5:30 p.m. The group will also jam with students from the Delta Music Institute at Delta State University. The Exchange Band's Juke Joint Festival performance at Ground Zero in Clarksdale on April 16, at 7:00 p.m., will include previous recipients of the Berklee Mississippi Music Exchange scholarship, teens living in the Clarksdale area.