The Arts Institute of Mississippi (AIM) at Southern Miss, established the AIM Awards to salute and honor the accomplishments of outstanding high school level arts teachers, schools, and/or organizations that are making an impact through exemplary achievements in arts education throughout the state of Mississippi.
Congratulations to the recipients of the 2020 AIM Awards, who are making an impact in the Arts disciplines, including creative writing, dance, music (bands, symphony orchestra, choirs, and other ensembles), theatre, and visual arts. The award recipients will be recognized virtually or at a special event, details to be decided.
Visual Art at Jackson Public School District/Power APAC in Jackson, Miss.
Dynamic arts educator, Renna Moore, is part of The Academic and Performing Arts Complex (APAC) program, which serves students in Jackson Public Schools in grades 4-12. The APAC Visual and Performing Arts division is a pre-professional arts program based on a rigorous written, sequential curriculum taught by artist-teachers. The program focuses on nurturing an appreciation of the arts into young artists, while developing the following 5 critical skills: creativity, collaboration, confidence/improved resiliency, cultural awareness/empathy, and critical thinking.
When asked what Moore considers her greatest contribution to the Arts in Mississippi, she says that she is most proud of her former students that are now Art teachers or are pursuing degrees in college to become Art teachers—as her strong influence in the Arts today is impacting future generations throughout the state.
The passion that Moore has for teaching and encouraging her scholars are somewhat uncommon during this specific era in education. Her scholars prove her dedication to their success as artists and as well rounded students. This school year has proven to be an outstanding year thus far because multiple scholars have been awarded Scholastic Art Awards, full scholarships to area colleges, local art contest winners, and state contests.Marnetta Smith McIntyre, Ed.S
“Just like Ruth Pierson stated in one of her TedTalks before she died, Every Child Needs a Hero, and Moore is the hero to many scholars across our district,” she added.
In her role as Secondary Division Director of the Mississippi's Art Educators Association, she works with and mentors high school teachers from north Mississippi to the Coast, teaches professional development, and coordinates annual art events that bring the community together.
Moore, a graduate of Mississippi College, has been teaching since 2004. She has been with JPSD since 2014 at Forest Hill and now teaches 4-12 APAC and Advanced Placement studio visual arts at Power APAC. Moore founded the National Art Honor Society at FHHS in 2014 and at Power APAC in 2019. Moore’s approach to education has earned her the 2018 National Art Education Association Mississippi Outstanding Educator Award, 2017 MAEA Bill Poirier Art Educator of the Year, and the 2018-2019 Parents for Public School JPS Outstanding Educator. She is the Secondary Educator Division Director for MAEA and is a NAEA National Mentor to other art teachers.
Literary Arts Instructor at Mississippi School for the Arts (MSA) in Brookhaven, Miss.
Clinnesha D. Sibley, a native of McComb, Mississippi, is the Literary Arts Instructor at MSA and a published author of plays, poetry, monologues and essays. In her recommendation letter, Suzanne Hirsch, Executive Director of the Mississippi School of the Arts, praises Sibley’s innovative instructional approaches and says she has kept the program current and relevant to the field.
She has innovative instructional approaches to her discipline keeping the program current and relevant to the field. Since starting at MSA, she has implemented a blogspace, regular guest artist opportunities, and field trips for our students. Under her guidance, our program's journal publication is now award-winning, and her students have won Scholastic Writing Awards on the national level. They are also recognized in university review competitions, statewide and regional writing competitions, and most recently an international writing competition.Suzanne Hirsch, Executive Director of the Mississippi School of the Arts
Sibley’s impact transcends her classroom through her workshop, supported by the Mississippi Humanities Council, titled “Humanists as Activists: Exploring Our Social Responsibility as Writers,” where she presents original material as examples for teaching participants how to write well.
In 2017, Sibley was selected as one of twenty-four “change-makers” across the United States for the National Arts Strategies Creative Communities Fellow Program. A community advocate and writer, she has received numerous awards including the Holland New Voices Award, the Arkansas Arts Council Individual Artist Fellowship, and the Mississippi Theatre Association Adult Playwriting Award. Clinnesha’s creative and critical writing has appeared in national literary journals, anthologies, and publications including HowlRound and Black Acting Methods. She received her B.A. at Tougaloo College in Jackson, Mississippi, and her M.F.A. from the University of Arkansas.
Music and Theatre at Sacred Heart Catholic School in Hattiesburg, Miss.
For over 22 years, Olivia Drinkwater has been positively impacting and inspiring students to become passionate actors, singers, and musicians—as a classroom teacher and choral director at Sacred Heart Catholic School.
Drinkwater is praised for having a profound impact on the Hattiesburg arts community, working tirelessly in making theatre arts accessible to the young citizens and expanding the cultural diversity of the industry to include southern artists. She championed the development of a Musical Theatre Program at the school, where none existed prior.
In the words of her nominator:
The legacy marked by her collaborative spirit, iron will, and generous creativity will make it possible for generations of young musical theatre artists to find their beginnings and easily connect with professional training.
Drinkwater, a native of South Louisiana, earned a Bachelor of Arts in Vocal Music and a Masters of Music in Choral Conducting from Louisiana State University. Drinkwater’s performance experience includes 7 years as a Soprano in the Louisiana State University A Capella Choir, Chamber Singers, Collegium Musicum, De Profundis and Baton Rouge Symphony Chorus. Drinkwater has also performed in stage productions of Don Giovanni, The Ballad of Baby Doe, Bartered Bride, Meet Me in St. Louis, The Wizard of Oz, Anything Goes, South Pacific, My Fair Lady, Oklahoma!, and Mamma Mia. Drinkwater is also an active member of the community, serving as Co-artistic Director of Center Stage Troupe and company member of Hattiesburg Civic Light Opera
Director of Orchestral Activities at Gulfport High School and as Music Director of the Gulf Coast Symphony Youth Orchestra.
As the Director of Orchestral Activities at Gulfport High School and Music Director of the Gulf Coast Symphony Youth Orchestra, Daniel Martinez has been positively impacting the lives of young musicians since 2006. Martinez has developed a diverse string program that rivals any in the state of Mississippi, and regularly produces students who due to the experiences provided by the program are gaining valuable scholarship opportunities.
The letter of nomination highlights the impact that Martinez has had in strings education:
In his position as Music Director of the Gulf Coast Symphony Youth Orchestra Martinez impacts dedicated student musicians from all along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, from different socio-economic backgrounds; Due to the positive impact of their interactions with Martinez, many of the students in both organizations continue on to pursue their studies in Music Education.
Daniel Martinez began his cello studies at the age of nine in his hometown of San Pedro Sula, Honduras. He continued his studies at the Victoriano Lopez Music School, and in 2001, Martinez was admitted to USM on a full scholarship. At USM he studied under the tutelage of Dr. Alexander Russakovsky, and served as principal cellist in the University’s Symphony Orchestra. After earning his Bachelor of Music degree in 2006, he accepted a teaching position with the Gulfport School District Strings Program. In 2009, he was honored to take the position of Director of Orchestral Activities with the Gulfport School District. Martinez is a member of several ensembles including the Oaklawn Chamber Music Society, Momentum String Quartet, the Mobile Symphony Orchestra, Gulf Coast Symphony Orchestra, and Pensacola Symphony Orchestra. For 6 years, Martinez has been serving as the music director and principal conductor for the Gulf Coast Symphony Youth Orchestra, where he works with some of the best high school orchestral players from the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
Director of Choral Activities, Gentry High School in Indianola, Miss.
Harvey Jackson’s teaching career includes both classroom and choral music education in the Sunflower County Consolidated School District. Under Jackson’s leadership, his choir, the Gentrytes, has received numerous superior ratings in both sight-reading and performance on the district and state levels; they have traveled the U.S. competing in various choral invitational festivals, including the Carnegie Hall Festival of Gold in New York. At the competitions, all three performing ensembles, Concert Choir, Chamber Chorale, and Ladies Ensemble, won accolades along with other awards such as Outstanding Choral Group, Sweepstakes Choral Program, and the Adjudicator Award. Jackson boasts his commitment to arts education with 98% of the graduating choir members receiving choral scholarships to various universities within the state.
In the words of his nominator, he has made significant contributions to students, Gentry High School, the Indianola community and the Sunflower County Consolidated School District:
Mr. Jackson’s first two years were spent at Robert L. Merritt Jr. High School in Indianola, Miss. He developed the first choral music program there and their performances were the best. Many individuals could not believe that middle school students could perform as well as that group did. Two years later, he was promoted to take the baton at Gentry High School, where he continues to make magic with the students he works with. Jackson and his choir and ensembles have actually put Gentry High School, Sunflower County Consolidated School District and Indianola on the proverbial map.”
A native of Cleveland, Mississippi, Jackson received his Bachelors and Masters Degrees of Music Education from Mississippi Valley State University and William Carey Universities, respectively. He is currently pursuing his Educational Specialist Degree in Administration and Supervision from Delta State University. His future goals are to obtain a DMA in Choral Conducting and to open his own a Performing Arts Academy for gifted youth in the MS Delta. Jackson is a proud member of the Rho Alpha Alpha Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. He lives his life by the daily motto, “Without God, I am nothing.”
Director of Bands at Germantown High School in Madison, Miss.
Justin Harvison is the founding Director of Bands for the Germantown Band Program in Madison, Miss, which consists of approximately 500 students in grades 6 through 12. Since the band’s inception in 2011, it has enjoyed extensive awards and accolades throughout the country during their 9-year existence including consistent all-superior ratings in marching concert and sight-reading. For the past 5 years, the band has earned the Mississippi Bandmasters Sweepstakes Award. The band program’s premier instrumental ensemble, the Symphonic Band, became the first band from Mississippi to be invited as a featured Band for the 27th Annual Music for All National Concert Festival in Indiana.
Harvinson’s personal accolades include being selected as Germantown High School STAR Teacher in 2015-2016 and 2017-2018; named the 2018 Germantown High School Teacher of the Year, the Madison County School District Teacher of the Year, and the 2019 Mississippi Bandmasters and Phi Beta Mu Delta Chapter Band Director of the Year. In 2016, he was pointed as the marching director of the Mississippi Lion’s All-State Band, as they competed and won their 33rd International Championship in Fukuoka, Japan.
Harvinson holds bachelor’s degrees in Music Education and Trombone performance as well as a Master of Music Education from The University of Southern Mississippi. He studied trombone under Dr. Bruce Tychinski and conducting under Dr. Thomas Fraschillo. During his time at Southern Miss, Harvison was a member of the world renowned Wind Ensemble, the USM Symphony Orchestra, and the USM Trombone Choir. In 2005 Harvison was a member of the 10-time DCI World Champions, The Cadets from Allentown, PA. He was (and still is) greatly influenced by two of his finest teachers: Mr. Terry Ingram and Mr. Gary Cook.
Germantown High School was opened in August 2011 by Madison County School District, one of the fastest growing and top-rated school districts in the state of Mississippi. Germantown High School is located in Madison, a suburb north of Jackson.
Music Educator at Oak Grove High School in Hattiesburg, Miss.
Dr. Cassandra Weiss has been a music teacher and educator for more than 20 years, teaching all K-12 and university levels. Dr. Weiss has passionately advocated for the arts through vocal and instrumental music while starting new programs such as guitar and piano classes. Her choirs have earned consistent superior and first place ratings at state and national competitions. She is extremely enthusiastic about teaching music to non-performing students, ensuring that all students learn to appreciate music. She is music teacher at Oak Grove High, minister of music at Purvis UMC, and an adjunct professor at William Carey.
Probably the most important part of Dr. Weiss’ influence on our campus is the impact she is making on non-musical students. With a school filled with successful students, Dr. Weiss has worked with those who have little musical experience and helped them to grow in knowledge, confidence and performance of their musical skills. For the past three semesters she has directed at least one of her general music classes of 20+ students to begin learning to play the guitar. Though hesitant at first, students have made great strides and enjoy performing at an end of the semester concert for their friends and families.Keith Bounds, Assistant Principal at Oak Grove High School
This spring, Dr. Weiss plans to hold a workshop for area middle school and high school music teachers who are teaching or would like to teach guitar classes, but are not so trained in the instrument, which will improve the state of guitar education in local public schools.
Dance Education Teacher at Oak Grove High School in Hattiesburg, Miss.
Sarah Williams began dancing at an early age in Hattiesburg, Miss. Continuing her education and training, Williams received her Bachelor’s in Fine Arts in Dance Education at Southern Miss, and Masters of Education in Administration and Supervision.
After attaining her bachelor’s degree, Williams was honored to be named a New Orleans Saintsation. As a Saintsation for three seasons, she not only performed professionally but consistently shared dance through various community projects in the Southeastern region. Her goal was to motivate and inspire young people to pursue their dreams and dream big. This focus translated directly to her many classrooms, as Williams is not only a very well trained dance educator, but through her studies and professional experiences, she is a mentor and an inspiration to both students and colleagues alike.
Her nominator commends Williams for her character and proactiveness:
It is not an overstatement to say that in all arenas, Williams strove for and achieved the highest standards as an artist educator. Then and now in her work as a professional in the arts and education fields, she truly embodies the professional skills, knowledge and dispositions that lead, influence, inform and inspire.
Williams intends on continuing her pursuit of education and creating more opportunities for movement in classrooms, dance concerts, showcases and community collaborations. Williams serves on several arts boards and is an active member of the Mississippi Dance Leader Alliance.