When Dr. Catherine Rand takes the podium to conduct the first University of Southern Mississippi Wind Ensemble concert of the season, it will be an emotional night celebrating the human spirit.
The concert, set for Thursday, Oct. 10 at 8 p.m. in Bennett Auditorium, was named not only for the All-American composer program, but also for the amazing drive and determination of Southern Miss students. The program opens with Summon the Heroes by John Williams, the favorite composer of Southern Miss senior music education major Mariah Lambes. Performed by the brass choir, it is their tribute to Lambes who was recently diagnosed with lymphoma.
The Vancleave High School and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College graduate was entering the final stretch of becoming a music educator when she learned the news.
“I was looking forward to my senior year - starting classes, being mellophone section leader of the Pride, playing in large and small ensembles - I was counting down the days,” said Lambes. “But on July 26, 2013 I was officially diagnosed with Lymphoma. Several tests and a few weeks later the call was made that I was in Stage 3 of Hodgkin's Lymphoma and would have to undergo chemotherapy treatments every 2 weeks for 6 months.”
That meant completing school and participating in planned leadership positions was not an option.
Her colleagues have mobilized to help with the astronomical medical costs. The Sigma Alpha Iota chapter at the University of Delaware and the Phi Mu Alpha chapter at Southern Miss are selling neon green bracelets for Lambes, a die-hard Star Wars fan, that say “May the force be with Mariah.” Several students even shaved their heads in solidarity.
People from as far as New Mexico and New York have purchased bracelets to support her after hearing about her situation. The new director of The Pride of Mississippi Marching Band, Jamie Standland, facilitated the donation of more than $2,000.
This past weekend at the Golden Eagles’ home football game against Florida International University, Lambes was invited by Southern Miss Athletics to be an honorary team captain. She rode next to the team during Eagle Walk and accompanied team captains for the pre-game coin toss.
“Tough days are ahead for this young lady, but because of so many special people, she will realize she is not alone in this fight,” said Standland.
Thursday night’s concert is filled with triumphant and exciting music, including selections from Leonard Bernstein’s popular West Side Story. Also on the program is John Mackey’s Aurora. The piece celebrates the mythological figure most often associated with beauty and the heralding of the coming of the light.
The poignancy is not missed by Lambes, who is already celebrating a win. “My road will have its ups and downs, but my doctors and I are very confident that in just six months time I will be named the victor in my battle with cancer.”
The concert is free and open to the public. Donations to a fund for Mariah Lambes will be accepted and bracelets will be available for purchase. For more information, contact the Southern Miss School of Music at 601.266.5543.