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School of Music Chosen for National Project

Mon, 12/07/2015 - 11:35am | By: Mike Lopinto

The Southern Miss Kids Orchestra

The School of Music at the University of Southern Mississippi has been selected as an official site for the National String Project Consortium (NSPC). This coalition of string project sites based at colleges and universities across the United States is dedicated to increasing the number of children playing stringed instruments and addressing the critical shortage of string teachers across the country.

Participating sites receive an initial grant of $10,000 from the NSPC and National Association of Music Merchandizers (NAMM). The purpose of the grant is to assist sites with startup costs for their string programs so they can keep tuition for students low enough for any family to participate. 

“We are honored to have been chosen as one of the official sites for the NSPC,” said Dr. Michael Miles, grant administrator. “This project has been four years in the making, and we are proud to join the other 36 sites across the country in a concerted effort to provide opportunities for string instruction for young students, and training for our future string educators.”

With this designation Hattiesburg becomes one of the most comprehensive string education communities in the entire country. This community, the public schools, and the USM School of Music now support string training available to all young people ages 5-25. 

“Under the leadership of Dr. Jay Dean, our Symphony Orchestra has become an inspiration to many young musicians, and we are now able to provide training for those inspired musicians at every level,” Miles said. “At the same time, this project provides additional training opportunities for our string education students at the University, as they will be assisting in instruction of the students under the mentorship of a master string educator.”

The Southern Miss NSPC string program is available to students in grades 4-12.  Due to the support of the NSPC and NAMM, tuition for the program is kept a reasonable rate so that every interested student may participate in the program.

Students in grades 4-7 will enter the program in the Southern Miss Kids Orchestra, a heterogeneous orchestra setting under the direction of master teacher Gladys Gonzalez. Students in grades 8-12 will participate in the Southern Mississippi Youth Orchestra, an organization celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. Jorge Gonzalez serves as the master teacher for the youth orchestra. 

These teachers will be assisted by students from USM's outstanding Symphony Orchestra.  As an official site for the NSPC, the Southern Mississippi Youth and Kids Orchestras will be able to provide a higher quality of music education to the community.

The NSPC has a dual purpose of training tomorrow's string educators while providing accessible string instruction opportunities for youth and adults. Since 1999, it has leveraged more than $3.1 million to strengthen string-music education across the nation, while affiliating with institutions of higher education, communities, businesses, foundations, professional music organizations and individuals who support these goals. 

To see and hear the NSPC program in action, the public can attend the fall concert of the Southern Mississippi Youth Orchestra Monday, Dec.14 at 6:30 p.m. in the Mannoni Performing Arts Center on the Southern Miss campus. Admission is free. 

For information on participating in the Southern Miss National String Project Consortium contact Gladys Gonzalez at 601.408.0755, or visit