Community music school opens at Millsaps

by Lauren Abramson

This fall, the second floor of the Academic Complex has been humming with music. Violins, violas, flutes, pianos, clarinets and cellos fill the hall with sounds of sonatas and scales as 40-plus students prepare for lessons.

The Millsaps College Conservatory of Music serves as a community music school for all ages, and operates in conjunction with the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra. Millsaps now has a Memorandum of Understanding with the Symphony that allows for symphony members to teach in the conservatory and also for the symphony to use Millsaps facilities when needed.

Dr. Rachel Heard serves as the director of the conservatory. Ever since she had the opportunity to teach in a community music school at Westminster Conservatory of Music while in graduate school, it has been Heard’s dream to develop a similar school wherever she ended up teaching.

“Community music schools are often attached to colleges and universities,” says Heard. “They function as a workshop for college students because you’ve got this place where you can teach while studying. It’s like a built in internship program.”

While the internship opportunity for Millsaps students hasn’t quite been formed yet, Heard is confident that it will be established in the near future. Having just started this fall, the conservatory is already well under way with around 40 students of all ages, 10 faculty members from Millsaps and the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra, and a new musical theater program developing in combination with Wells United Methodist Church. As Heard states, “Our across the street connection will continue even within the conservatory.”

The dream of the conservatory could not have become a reality without the help of the Else School, though. About a year ago, in August 2013, Heard met Joe Donovan, a professor of entrepreneurship here at Millsaps, at a faculty conference.

“I spoke about the conservatory idea, he spoke about the entrepreneurship class programs,” recalls Heard. “With the help of his grad students we began developing the school.”

In just a year, the conservatory has transformed from an idea and a dream to an already flourishing reality.  The spring semester will see the addition of musicianship classes as well as ensembles made up of current conservatory students and likely new students as well. Be on the lookout for upcoming recitals and events. If you’re still around Dec. 16, check out  the conservatory’s benefit concert.

Here is a small taste of the talent already in the school, from its Nov. 15 recital.