As a student, Connie Sills Kossen remembers the sound of music drifting from the windows of Poindexter Hall. “There was no air conditioning in the building and the windows would be opened. You could hear everyone practicing,” she said. “Poindexter was the center of campus.”
Poindexter Hall recently recaptured that honor with a grand reopening in November to celebrate its renewal. The building, which was built in 1905, holds special memories for many, especially former music students.
“Performing on that stage was so intimidating to us,” said Kossen, who graduated in 1964 with a bachelor of music education. “You were being graded and of course everything was from memory.”
Kossen recalls Dr. Sigfred Matson, who chaired the music division from 1949-1978. She described him as a very strict German.
“Dr. Matson wrote a composition for each one of his seniors that was performed for the recital. Mine was titled “Why?” Kossen is attempting to collect the manuscripts, which were a special gift to each one of the seniors.
“I spent almost all of my time in Poindexter my senior year. Every class I took was in Poindexter. I was practicing three hours a day,” she said.
Nancy Kennedy remembers the many hours of practice and even Saturday classes. She earned her bachelor of arts in piano in 1956 and returned in 1960 to earn a bachelor of music in piano.
“When I was there, we had assigned practice rooms. The teachers would come by and peek in the cubby holes and make sure you were there,” she said.
Most days were fun; however, there were the dreaded jury performances that were held in Dr. Matson’s studio where the faculty would judge their performances.
Other faculty members and instructors credited for their dedication were voice teacher Ocie Higgins, piano teacher Maggie Allen and choral director Marilyn Swingle. She also praised the work of faculty still on staff including James Allen, Dr. Doug Browning and Dr. Cherry Dunn.
Their efforts manifested in students’ lives as discipline, concentration, organization and structure, according to Kossen, who later earned a graduate degree in church music and taught at St. Richard Catholic School in Jackson. She also taught private piano and voice lessons and sang professionally with the Mississippi Opera and the Mississippi Symphony.
Kennedy enjoyed privately teaching in the school system for about 15 years. “One of my goals of teaching was to instruct the basic skills, but especially to instill a love of music,” she said. Both are thrilled about Poindexter being restored to its original splendor – especially the addition of elevators.
Kossen said, “I think it’s marvelous and long overdue. It will add a new dimension to the entire university. It will allow the university to expand its additional offerings to the campus and community.”