August 23, 2017  

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Southern Miss School of Music Donates Piano to Hurricane Isaac Victim

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Monica Echols lost virtually everything as a result of Hurricane Isaac. (Submitted photo)

When pianist Monica Echols surveyed the damage caused by Hurricane Isaac to her Hammond, La., home, the loss was extensive. However, the loss of her piano and life-long music collection was even more devastating.

Seeing her mother’s despair, University of Southern Mississippi alumna Carmen Echols returned to her roots to see if there was anyone who could help. There was.

When School of Music Director Michael Miles got word of the situation, he was able to put two plans into effect. Family members of Dana Ragsdale, who recently passed away, had mentioned that they would like to donate one of her pianos to a worthy cause. One phone call later and Echols became the proud owner of a piano with a treasured history.

“This is a wonderful example of how Dana’s legacy lives on,” said Miles. “She had generously donated her home to Southern Miss to fund music scholarships and now she was helping restore the quality of life of someone in need.”

The other plan involved the philanthropic efforts of the school of music’s fraternity, Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia. The group has offered to collect sheet music for piano and recordings of most any genre, though her favorites are classical, jazz and gospel. No monetary donations will be accepted.

“We hope in some small part to rebuild her collection with the help of our community,” said Aaron Strum, Sinfonia member. “The School of Music is truly a family and we do what we can to help each other.”

Donations are being accepted in the School of Music office located in the Mannoni Performing Arts Center on the Hattiesburg campus. Members of the public are asked to donate at the School of Music tent in front of Bennett Auditorium from 4-7 p.m. prior to the Southern Miss home football game on Oct. 29.

“This is so overwhelming,” said Echols. “It’s amazing when you bless people you get blessings back in return. I am so grateful, I have no words.”

For more information or the help, contact Strum at 601.674.6857.