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MSA anticipates milestone year

Mississippi School of the Arts leaders are looking forward to a milestone year at the state school on the old Whitworth College campus.

      “Things are going very well,” said MSA Executive Director Suzanne Hirsch Wednesday as students began classes. “We have amazing students.”

     MSA’s enrollment for 2012-13 is 144, which is its biggest ever, according to Hirsch. Setting a new enrollment record is a good way to help celebrate the school’s 10th anniversary, she added.

     Hirsch said the campus is busy with many creative things such as painting, dancing and singing, but also has other activities going on.

     “We have construction projects going on campus,” she said. “We have some guest artist activities planned, so that makes for lots of things for our community to enjoy.”

     Construction is nearing completion on Enochs Hall, which is on Monticello Street on the campus’ north side. Hirsch said the opening of Enochs is something they look forward to.

     “Obviously the opening of Enochs Hall will be big for us,” she said. “It will have a black box theater and an art gallery in it. So that will be a great addition to our campus.”

     Work also remains ongoing on the western wall of the MSA tower, which houses the school’s dormitories. That work is scheduled to be completed this fall.

     Another event the public can look forward to this year at MSA is the coming of the Squonk Opera of Pennsylvania.

     Hirsch said their performance will be funded by a grant and the group will be in Brookhaven for two short visits, which will include a performance available to the community.

     MSA reached another milestone this year when it achieved the goal of having students from 91 percent of the state’s 82 counties over the school’s 10 years of offering classes.

     “We’re really close to getting to all of them,” she said. “It’s very important to reach them all and be able to say we’ve reached every county and be able to serve them all. We’re working on getting students from counties we don’t have students from already.”

     Hirsch credited the school’s record and longevity as reasons for its success.

     “We’re just working hard here,” she said. “We’ve been around long enough where people are hearing more about us. We’re being consistent on how we approach each year, and that builds more participation and interest.”

     Hirsch said the goal is to continue growing and touching as many counties and people as they can.

     “Proving who we were to the community and state has helped spread the word,” she said. “We hope to grow each year until we’re full and have to have a new dorm.”

     Currently, MSA’s campus can house up to 160 students, which Hirsch said would mean triple occupancy in the school’s dormitories.

     “We can have as many commuters as we want, but they have to be within 25 miles to commute,” she said. “We also have two more disciplines we’d like to add, but we don’t have enough space to accommodate the students we would need to do that.”