Scholarship to honor band director

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, May 21, 2014

By Will Sullivan

Guest Columnist 

When Jerry Cumberland died in December, he left a hole in the hearts of many of the students who had learned to play musical instruments under his direction. He also left a hole in the hearts of many students who just called him friend.

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Some of those students are working to create a scholarship to honor his legacy at Picayune Memorial High School. Right now, though, the plans are a little up the air.

Still, Jamie McRaney, PMHS class of 1989 and Nick Barrack, class of 1990, both former trumpet players in Maroon Tide Band, are heading up the efforts to raise money for the scholarship and march on.

McRaney said the official name of the scholarship is the “Jerry Cumberland Scholarship for Outstanding Musicianship,” but will be managed by the Greater Pine Belt Community Foundation of Hattiesburg as the “Jerry Cumberland Scholarship.” McRaney said his group is completing the paperwork for the non-profit to handle the scholarship.

“Anyone who wants to contribute to the scholarship fund can go ahead and send money to the foundation, just being sure to designate the money for the Jerry Cumberland Scholarship,” McRaney said.

He said the group decided to have that organization handle the scholarship because it already is recognized by the IRS as a non-profit and because it would be difficult for those working on establishing the scholarship to correctly handle all the paperwork and manage the money.

He went on to say that the recipient, or recipients if they raise enough money to have more than one recipient each year, does not have to be a college music major or even play an instrument, they just have to be excellent musicians of some nature.

The problem the group is having is that an unexpected stumbling block has arisen. McRaney said they got the City Manager’s office and Picayune Police Chief Brian Dawsey sign the paperwork to hold the event on Goodyear Boulevard and in Jack Read Park from 2 p.m. to midnight on Friday, June 20, in conjunction with the reunion of the Class of 1989. McRaney said they thought that was all they had to do until he approached City Councilman Wayne Gouguet to seek his help since Gouguet represented the area.

That was when he found out they had to go before the City Council with the plans. The matter was presented to the City Council at its last meeting, but what had been called a “slam dunk” by Mayor Ed Pinero ran into more problems when Gouguet pointed out there is an ordinance preventing parking along the boulevard after 9 p.m. Rather than granting an exception for this event, Gouguet persuaded the council to wait until at least the next council meeting and take up a new ordinance making some changes to the current ordinance.

After the meeting, McRaney was concerned because the group has only a short time to get everything in place to hold the event, assuming the ordinance is changed. Still, he and his group plan to put together the scholarship honoring their friend, former band director and inspiration – one way or another — and urges that anyone who loved Jerry Cumberland to donate.