A Mississippi State fraternity hopes to create a scholarship endowment honoring the late Bruce Lesley, a musician and professor.
Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, Lambda Phi chapter, plans to kick off fundraising activities with a benefit concert and silent auction set for 6 pm April 22 at First Presbyterian Church, Starkville.
Hunter Blades, chapter marketing director, said members decided to create a legacy for Lesley, “a talented musician and wonderful man” who died in August 2019. Their goal is raise the $25,000 needed to fund the endowment.
“Once money has been raised, it will be self-sufficient in creating a $1,000 scholarship for a hard-working, musically oriented student,” Blades said.
Lesley taught at Tupelo High School for 11 years and Mississippi University of Women for 13 years before coming to Mississippi State University for eight years, Blades said.
According to his obituary, Lesley revitalized the W’s choirs, “included men for the first time and won many accolades and awards including returning to Carnegie Hall in 1996. Bruce ultimately retired as Director of Choral Activities at Mississippi State University and was named Associate Professor of Music Emeritus and Director of Choral Activities Emeritus. Over his entire teaching and directing career, he additionally managed to serve for 18 years as choirmaster and organist at First Presbyterian Church in Tupelo and several other churches in Mississippi and Alabama.”
In 2005, Lesley received the Earnestine Ferrell Award for contributions contributions to Mississippi Choral Music.
“He was a multi-talented musician, a gifted professor, a magnanimous pianist and organist and a very special, unique soul,” Blades said. “He was a magical, colorful teacher and conductor. His performances, whether solo on the piano or organ or high school or church choir, were always experiences of awesome joy and satisfaction.”
When news of Lesley’s passing spread, chapter members saw people from all over share their memories about him on Facebook, Blades said.
“Upon seeing his impact on the community and on our fraternity, we felt we should memorialize his name in a way in which he would’ve been proud,” he said. “The best way we could think of was to create a scholarship for a male student who is continuing the advancement of music in America. With this scholarship, we hope to continue his legacy of musical talent and selfless giving to create generations of future musicians and educators just like him.”
Lambda Phi Chapter will collect silent auction items until April 1.
The April 22 concert will consist of individual performances from MSU faculty members and students, as well as a group performance by the Lambda Phi Choir.
Admission is free. Donations can be made at the door or online through a link on the Lambda Phi’s Facebook page. The concert also will be streamed on the page.
For information about the endowment or the concert, contact Blades via email at [email protected] .