Assistant Professor of Musicology Beth McGinnis wanted to bring light to the musical heritage of a rural community in Alabama. Her initial journey began through her church, Vestavia Hills Baptist, and its relationship with Sowing Seeds of Hope. Sowing Seeds of Hope is a dynamic partnership between the people of Perry County and Alabama CBF-related churches. Started 10 years ago, Sowing Seeds of Hope is a 25-year commitment to help the people of Perry County through home repair and housing solutions, healthcare assistance, spiritual renewal opportunities, educational resources and much more.Perry County is one of the poorest counties in Alabama but according to McGinnis, one of the richest culturally. McGinnis said, “So often, programs to help underserved communities focus on the deficits. I wanted to highlight the assets in Perry County and ensure that these rich elements were researched and then nurtured.”
The three-prong project looked at Marion, Union Town, and Sprott with plans for student engagement and service learning. Since last fall, McGinnis along with Samford’s Mann Center and Oral History Program have started to make real connections with the community and their schools. Francis Marion School, Union Town and Judson all have music programs that have interacted with Samford. 18 students from music education and music and worship senior seminar participated in working with these schools and exploring the power of music.
McGinnis also applied for a Samford Diversity Development Grant that allowed her to underwrite new instruments for the Union Town Band. Union Town visited the Samford campus where their students performed with Samford music students.
In order to share the stories that the students and McGinnis encountered, she enlisted the help of senior Samuel Robertson and Michelle Little, director of Samford’s Oral History program to create a Podcast. In this student-made episode, they discuss the role of music education in the Black Belt and beyond. This episode features Robertson, McGinnis, Dr. Cathy Trimble, principal of Francis Marion School, and Issac Lanier, band director of Robert C. Hatch School. The music in this episode was written and produced during the visits to Perry County by Samford student Kerry Joiner.Next steps are already underway for solidifying Samford’s involvement in this community. The spring music seminar will return to Perry County. McGinnis has been developing the course through the Mann Center Faculty Fellows program. She hopes to place student teachers in area schools and potentially embed in the community like the School of Pharmacy has done. Additionally, McGinnis hopes to work with a choir in Sprott that is comprised of octogenarians. It is exciting to see this relationship expand and offer potential to both the students at Samford and the Perry County community