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Murray’s success great example of MSA’s purpose

Columbus native and Mississippi School of the Arts studentJasmine Murray wowed the judges and the hearts of America Thursdaynight as she took her place among the elite Top 13 contestants onFox Network’s “American Idol.”

Her quest to reach this plateau started back in August of lastyear as she and her fellow contestants participated in auditionsacross the country. Out of some 100,000 candidates, the best andbrightest have been whittled down to Jasmine and 12 others. Overthe next 12 weeks, the group will compete for the position of2009’s “American Idol.”

Mississippi will be watching.

Her dream is one that many aspire and few attain.

Murray’s dream and the others just like it across thisartistically rich state is the purpose behind the MississippiSchool of the Arts. Be it vocal skills, artistic skills ortheatrical skills, the school’s purpose is help studentsconcentrate on talents they possess.

MSA was conceived as a place where Mississippi’s best andbrightest could hone their skills and soar for heights thatotherwise might not be within their reach. The MississippiLegislature bought into the idea in 1999, with the first classgraduated in 2004.

School officials are beaming in Jasmine’s limelight as newspaperand TV outlets have flocked to the campus. A Google search finds49,400 hits of MSA’s name tied to Jasmine. Like the bright-eyed17-year-old, the six-year old school is finally getting itsdue.

How things can change and change quickly.

It was just two months ago that legislators were consideringshuttering the Brookhaven campus and moving it to Columbus.Legislators realized the fallacy of the idea and voted down thelegislation.

But so has been the history of the state’s only performing artsschool. While quick to get off the ground with overwhelminglegislative support in 1999 — tight state budgets in 2001 broughtout critics of the school’s vision and ever since the school hashad to fight and crawl for financial support.

In the last few weeks inquiries by students looking to enroll innext year’s class have skyrocketed.

MSA has fielded calls from folks just wanting to know how theycan help the school. Already overcrowded dorm space may be burstingat the seams next year.

The coming weeks will tell the tale of a teenage sensation’sfuture, but one that forever tied will be the Mississippi School ofthe Arts and the vision of the Legislature back in 1999.Mississippi’s investment in a quality arts education is providing aplatform for Murray and others like her that will pay dividends foryears to come.