By STEVEN NALLEY
Mississippi State first lady Rhonda Keenum will host Coffee With the Conductors Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. at the MSU President’s Home to strengthen relations between local businesses and the Starkville-Mississippi State University Symphony Association.
Barbara McLaurin, immediate past president of the Symphony Association, said this event is the first of its kind, created with two goals in mind.
“First, we want those who attend the Coffee to learn more about one of Starkville’s best-kept secrets,” McLaurin said. “We also want them to hear directly from our conductors about the symphony programs. Over the years, we have learned that having a local symphony is not only good for Starkville from an artistic standpoint, but for economic reasons as well.”
Current Symphony Association president Robert Phillips said its relationship with the university has been close, branching into relationships with MSU music department members and the MSU Foundation, which manages its finances. He said the Symphony Association is still an independent community organization which relies on the community for support.
“Coffee with the Conductors is part of an effort to broaden, expand and deepen that support by providing an informal occasion for exploring some ways that the business community can become more directly involved in the association and its programs,” Phillips said. “At the same time, the association would like to contribute more actively to the community’s economic development.
“The symphony gives Starkville an advantage that most communities do not have,” Phillips added. “The entities that we support, the Symphony Orchestra, the Symphony Chorus and Programs for Children, do not ... contribute a large amount to the local economy, but our having a symphony helps to make Starkville more attractive to industries and business that are capable of providing substantially to the local and regional economy.”
The association’s symphony orchestra also provides opportunities Starkville’s musicians would not have otherwise, Phillips said.
“We support the developing string program in the department of music at the university by providing scholarships for students who study violin, viola, cello and string bass,” Phillips said. “These scholarship students participate in the symphony orchestra at MSU, the MSU Philharmonia, and they play in the Starkville-MSU Symphony Orchestra.”
McLaurin said the Greater Starkville Development Partnership, the city of Starkville and other organizations have already shown strong support for Coffee With the Conductors.
“Representatives from both (the city government and the GSDP) have been invited, and Jon Maynard of the GSDP has been involved in planning this event,” McLaurin said. “He will discuss economic development and the symphony. You can also expect to see local and area business leaders, current major symphony donors and Symphony Association board members.”
McLaurin said the idea began as an event for the symphony to meet with major donors both potential and current, but it has since evolved. The title, she said, was adapted from a national symphony magazine.
“Two years ago, we prepared a concept paper and proposed the event to Mrs. Keenum, who is on our Symphony Association board,” McLaurin said. “She graciously accepted the proposal and agreed to host the event in the MSU President’s home. This is a first for us and is definitely outside the box.”