Application deadline Sept. 4 for teen music competition


Hattiesburg Arts Council and University of Southern Mississippi’s School of Communication challenge teens age 13-19 from Forrest and Lamar counties to participate in a music mentoring, performing and recording competition – “Put Me in the Mix.”

“The Media & Entertainment Arts program at Southern Miss is very excited to be partnering with the Hattiesburg Arts Council,” said Jeffrey Rassier, USM Media and Entertainments Arts.

“Put Me in the Mix holds great potential for everyone involved, and we expect this to become an annual event that continues to grow.”

Rassier said having worked with young musicians throughout his career, he knows how opportunities like this can be life changing.

“It’s very rewarding to be involved in something that can help transform young people’s lives,” he said.

According to HAC director Rebekah Stark-Johnson, Round One begins with a one-minute video audition and application due on September 4.

“Individuals or groups with outstanding talent will be chosen to advance to mentoring group sessions, education forums, and the final live competition held next February 22,” she said.

From October 1 to February 21, 2020, these teens will be invited to connect with other teens to learn about pre- and post-production planning, recording, broadcasting, and the legalities of the music industry.

Those with limited access to instruction or ensemble will be combined into small music groups for 12 weeks of team building, mentoring and practice.

Imani Steven, band leader for Tha Soul Session, is serving as mentorship coordinator/program facilitator for the program.

“My foundation as an artist is rooted in the church,” Steven said. “I’ve been singing since I was 3. My great-grandmother and grandmother taught me how to sing by teaching me hymns in the hymnal. My parents were 32- and 28-year-old educators when they moved us to Hattiesburg. They gave me everything I needed and wanted, but professional vocal coaching or artist development was not in the budget.”

Steven believes here is a lot of raw talent in all areas of Hattiesburg that could truly blossom with access to mentorship.

“There are children in Lamar and Forest counties who may not have access or funding to take advantage of the musical mentoring opportunities that the Pine Belt has to offer,” she said. “Our hope is to give them the information and tools they need to sustain their careers.”

Teens will prepare for the final February 22 competition with a chance to land a recording session at USM’s Media and Entertainment Arts recording studio, be aired on WUSM radio, and learn about scholarships and degree programs at the USM School of Communication.

WUSM’s Wilbur “Justin” Martin believes the “Put Me in the Mix” program will be a great way for a young artists to see behind the curtain of "showbiz," so to speak.

“Participants will have the ability to get an inside look at the entertainment industry, and hopefully dispel some myths the participants might have,” Martin said. “Any mistaken belief that "stars" don't work will be experienced first hand.”

The application deadline is September 4.

For application and video submission information visit HAC’s website: and go to the "Put Me in the Mix" menu page.

Judges will choose only one group from these four categories for the recording award:

1) Jazz-Classical

2) Pop-Rock-Country

3) R& B-Hip Hop

4) Folk-World-Spiritual.

Contestants will be scored according to creativity, originality, lyrics/melody, arrangement, promotion, musical impact, stage presentation and team participation. Groups are limited to only six voices/instruments.