USM School of Music relocates to "Twister Town"

The School of Music at the University of Southern Mississippi took considerable damage during last week's tornado, and while the tornado spread debris across campus, it also spread the sound of music.

"The performing arts center was heavily damaged. Particularly in the auditorium, the stage area. Marsh auditorium was heavily damaged," explained Dr. Steven Moser, dean of the College of Arts and Letters. "The jazz station, which was the old fire station on the corner of Hardy Street and campus, it was completely devastated."

Many of the classrooms were also left damaged. As the saying goes, the show must go on. So, with a little ingenuity, the music continues to play.

"Improvising. I've practiced in probably five, six different locations on the campus," said Adrienne Cocco, a music education/performance major at USM.

"Anywhere from the parking garage, to on Lake Bryan, to in elevators. Just anywhere where I can get some time to play."

It's a lesson in patience and resourcefulness. One example, is the jazz program, which now occupies the old post office on campus.

The same could be said for a new portion of campus, nicknamed "Twister Town."

"We've built a modular city on the northside of Hillcrest dorms. That will accommodate School of Music offices, teaching spaces, and studio spaces," said Dr. Moser. "It's not ideal, it's temporary. We play instruments and make a lot of noise, and those modular buildings are not really intended for that purpose, but this will get us going."

Despite the damage, and the relocation, the student's spirits remain unbroken.

"I believe we have become more of a family now than we ever were. It's really surprising how one disaster can bring us together to immeasurable standards," said Cocco.

Southern Miss officials say preliminary figures put the damage estimate campus wide at 20-30 million dollars.  Officials are still making assessments to all facilities and working with the schools insurance carrier as well as FEMA and MEMA to determine an exact amount.