Lighting the artist’s passion
After the first day of classes, the cafeteria in Student Life Center at the Mississippi School of the Arts looked like that of a typical school at first glance. However, it didn’t take long to notice that the air held a quality of something special. The young men and women were dressed up and an excitement filled the room.
For the seniors, the night marked a reunification with friends after a long summer. For the juniors, it marked the beginning of new relationships and bonds. For the teachers and administration, the night sparkled with the endless possibilities that could be achieved over the course of the next nine months.
In what has become an endearing tradition for MSA, the seniors shared the light of knowledge with the junior class.
“It’s special that they get to come into a tradition like this,” said Jennifer Jackson, who heads school advancement at MSA.
“So many schools have done away with these kinds of things,” Suzanne Noble, director of residential life, added.
Noble said the night was extra special for her because every year she comes to see the students as her children.
Though the ceremony included a physical passing light between the students via candles, MSA Executive Director Suzanne Hirsch made sure students understood the symbolic weight of the night.
“Tonight is the beginning of our journey together,” she said to the students. “Together we’re going to learn, and we’re going to cry, and we’re going to laugh, and you’re going to build a lot of amazing relationships with each other that will last a lifetime even though you will be around the world when you leave this place.”
Hirsch told the students that the white candle that sat in the middle of the head table marks the beginning of their time at MSA and the end when it is used at the graduation ceremony.
“You are the light and the energy that keeps the school spirit of this campus alive,” she said. “Many decisions have to be made within the walls of this place, but it’s our hope that the light of knowledge that you’ve gained in the last 12 years will guide your path.”
The light symbolism is also manifested in MSA’s mascot, the phoenix.
“It was a universal symbol of fire and light, the colors of passion in a never ending inspiration of creativity, a thing of excellence and beauty,” Hirsch said.
Finally, Hirsch pointed the use of light as manifestation of knowledge.
“Some of the greatest moments of our lives revolve around learning, and we thrive in the light bulb moments that make something new seem relevant and understandable,” she said. “Knowledge is the fuel that lights our path, and we move with vision.”