http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=PT+Sans Once a Jubilee, always a Jubilee: Hinds CC’s Cooper retires, leaving legacy of excellence

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Once a Jubilee, always a Jubilee: Hinds CC’s Cooper retires, leaving legacy of excellence
Posted by
24 July

Once a Jubilee, always a Jubilee: Hinds CC’s Cooper retires, leaving legacy of excellence

Dr. Bobby Cooper didn’t plan to stay at Hinds Community College’s Utica Campus for 45 years. Goodness knows, he had plenty of opportunity to go to his alma mater Tougaloo College, Jackson State University, Alcorn State University or other places.

As the longest serving employee this year, with 45 years of service, Dr. Bobby Cooper was presented with a special momento – a framed 45 record of the song ‘Amen, Amen” and a paper copy of the musical score. The song is one performed many times by Cooper’s Jubilee Singers over the years. Cooper retired at the end of June 2018.

He was lured to what was then Utica Junior College in 1972 as a music instructor by the college’s participation, along with Jackson State and Tougaloo, in Opera/South, a now-defunct black opera company based in Jackson.

“Utica was looking for someone to work with their opera chorus for Opera/South,” he recalled. “I didn’t come to stay – not to be there forever. Things changed when I got there. I really liked what I was doing.

“I was mainly just a one-person music department. I taught piano, I taught voice, I taught theory. You name it, I did it. I enjoyed it very, very much,” he said.

Then he had a life-changing experience. He read “Black Man’s Burden” by Utica Institute founder Dr. William Holtzclaw, learning about the all-male Jubilee Singers group formerly used as a fund-raising tool to keep the historically black college afloat. The group was active from 1922 to 1941.

“I said, ‘Wow, this is something I would like to do.’ When I was at Tougaloo College, I was in a male group. I wanted to continue it so I said, ‘I’m going to start this back.’ It took off.”

Cooper resurrected the Jubilee Singers in 1982, right around the time Utica Junior College and Hinds Junior College merged because of a federal higher education desegregation court order.

Cooper retired at the end of June as the current longest serving Hinds employee. Along the way, he was recognized many times for his work. His awards include Outstanding and Distinguished Academic Instructor of the Year, Hinds Humanities Teacher of the Year, Life Star, Hinds Hero, HEADWAE recognition and the college’s most prestigious recognition, the 3E Award. The Fine Arts Center on the Utica Campus bears his name.

Two scholarships have been established in his honor, the Dr. Bobby Cooper’s Jubilee Singers Scholarship in 2012 and the Daughters of Bobby Cooper Singers Scholarship in 2015. He established the Dr. Bobby Cooper Endowed Scholarship in 2002.

He plans to stay productive in his retirement. He has applied for a National Endowment for the Humanities grant to write the story of the Jubilee Singers and embark on a book tour. As the motto goes, “Once a Jubilee, always a Jubilee.”

Dr. Bobby Cooper directs the Jubilee Singers at the May 2018 graduation ceremony on the Utica Campus.

Cooper leaves behind a legacy of excellence in his music program but will always be best known for the Jubilee Singers and their rebirth.

Dr. Clyde Muse, who became Hinds president July 1, 1978, before the merger of the two institutions, recognized the jewel the college had in Cooper and the Jubilee Singers.

“I’ve been pleased to support them over the years. They truly are great ambassadors for us,” he said.

Muse recalls attending a national community college convention in New Orleans a few years ago when the Jubilee Singers performed. “I’ve been going to those meetings for years. Very seldom does anybody get a standing ovation, but theirs was automatic when they performed,” he said.

Retired Utica Campus Vice President Dr. George Barnes, who worked at the campus from 1962 to 2013, counts Cooper as a friend.

“He’s done a lot of things for people. He’s done a lot of things for me. He is just a fine person who has worked hard,” Barnes said. “I have a great respect for him.

“He was tough. He was kind and friendly but he wasn’t always soft,” Barnes said. “If something needed tightening down, he knew when he needed to do it. He was firm and fair. Students had a lot of faith in him. They loved him.”

Cooper’s Jubilee Singers started small – four young men, three of them from Illinois where he had gone to graduate school. Now the groups average about 12 to 15 singers. “These were my better singers. Just because you were a part of the choir did not mean you would be one of my Jubilee Singers,” he said.

The Jubilee Singers traveled extensively and performed widely. One of Cooper’s favorite performances was at the Vatican in Rome in 1999 where they sang “Ave Maria” and the group’s trademark “Amen” for Pope John Paul II.

“It was so exciting to sing at the Vatican. People came and talked to us and talked to the fellows. We were really celebrities. We enjoyed it so much,” he said.

Things haven’t always been smooth. There have been a few trials along the way. And he and his wife have been awakened more than once by a student calling at midnight after getting into a difficult situation.

“Kids who were not quite sure about themselves and what they can do –you get a chance to work with them because enrollment was small. You your own kids,” he said. “I always had a house full of my students.

But I enjoyed it and still hear from those kids today about their experiences. It was an environment that you could help the kids, and they wanted to do better. I’ve got former students everywhere.”

One of those is James Adams (1996, 2001), senior program manager for a Dallas nonprofit called Big Thought. “I experienced some rough years while in college at Hinds, and Doc was always there to say it would be all right. He supported me however he could and taught me, as a choir member and Jubilee Singer, to be a gentlemen of honesty and excellence. I saw the best example in the life he walked before us all,” Adams said.

Tracy James, one of the first Utica Campus music graduates, has known Cooper since 1977. She’s a vocal music teacher at a middle school in Ohio. “Music became my livelihood, so I owe much to Dr. Cooper for his wisdom and inspiration he instilled in me,” she said. “One thing Dr. Cooper taught me was always bring your ‘A’ game to the classroom.”

Calvin Bogan Sr., a music major from fall 2009 to summer 2013, is youth pastor at West Point Baptist Church in Hattiesburg.

“Dr. Cooper is a voice of assurance, the portrait of grace and the epitome of kindness. One of his many wonderful attributes I’ve noticed is his timeliness. My most memorable moment with Dr. Cooper is testament to his impeccable timeliness,” he said.

Students had planned a birthday celebration for Cooper on Nov. 3, 2010, but Bogan wasn’t able to be there after his mother died of cancer and her funeral was on that day.

“I viewed my mother for the last time. As I stood there, I felt a firm, but gentle hand on my shoulder. That hand was that of Dr. Cooper. He spent his birthday with my family and I as we funeralized my mother,” Bogan said. “I can say for me and everyone else that Dr. Cooper has always been there for anyone who needed him and is always in time.”

 

Dr. Cooper Legacy Giving

The Humanities Department at Hinds Community College’s Utica Campus is soliciting donations for two projects in honor of Dr. Bobby Cooper.

One is for a museum exhibit focused on his legacy that is being called the Utica Jubilee Experience.The plan is to display some of Dr. Cooper’s archival materials, along with historical information about the Jubilees – both the original group from the 1920s and 1930s, and Dr. Cooper’s Jubilees. The museum is to feature interactive exhibits allowing visitors the chance to experience one of Dr. Cooper’s Jubilee concerts, as well as educational materials for teachers bringing their classes to the exhibit.

The other option is a gift to the Dr. Bobby G. Cooper Scholarship Fund, which provides scholarships to deserving music education students at the Utica Campus. The recipients are selected each year based on their talent, financial need and potential to impact the world.

For more information on how to give to either project, contact Dan Fuller, 601.885.7097 or daniel.fuller@hindscc.edu or the Hinds Community College Foundation at 601.857.3363.

 

Editor’s Note: This story was originally published in the summer 2018 issue of Hindsight alumni magazine.

As Mississippi’s largest community college, Hinds Community College is a comprehensive institution offering quality, affordable educational opportunities with academic programs of study leading to seamless university transfer and career and technical programs teaching job-ready skills. With six locations in central Mississippi, Hinds enrolls about 12,000 students each fall semester. To learn more, visit www.hindscc.edu or call 1.800.HindsCC.

24 July, 2018 News more
Hinds CC Utica Campus music directors honored with building dedications
Posted by
30 September

Hinds CC Utica Campus music directors honored with building dedications

 

Family members of Louis Lee along with Hinds Community College Board of Trustees President Robert Pickett, far left, unveil the sign for the Louis Edward Leon Lee Classroom Building on the Utica Campus.

Family members of Louis Lee along with Hinds Community College Board of Trustees President Robert Pickett, far left, unveil the sign for the Louis Edward Leon Lee Classroom Building on the Utica Campus.

Dorothy Shannon Lee, widow of Louis Lee, cuts the ribbon for the new Louis Edward Leon Lee Classroom Building on the Utica Campus with the help of her daughter, Dr. Clara Lee.

Dorothy Shannon Lee, widow of Louis Lee, cuts the ribbon for the new Louis Edward Leon Lee Classroom Building on the Utica Campus with the help of her daughter, Dr. Clara Lee.

 

Dr. Clara Lee stands beside the plaque that will go in the building named for her father, Louis Edward Leon Lee, at Hinds Community College's Utica Campus.

Dr. Clara Lee stands beside the plaque that will go in the building named for her father, Louis Edward Leon Lee, at Hinds Community College’s Utica Campus.

 

Speakers at the Sept. 25 Hinds Community College Utica Campus ceremony to rename two buildings include, from left, Elder Kenneth M. Thrasher, Utica Campus alumnus; Beverly Trimble, coordinator of Workforce Investment Act; Hinds President Dr. Clyde Muse, Utica and Vicksburg-Warren Campus Vice President Dr. Debra Mays-Jackson; Dr. Clara Lee, daughter of Louis Lee; Dr. Bobby Cooper, Jubilee Singers director and honoree; Bolton Mayor Lawrence Butler and Hinds Board of Trustees President Robert Pickett.

Speakers at the Sept. 25 Hinds Community College Utica Campus ceremony to rename two buildings include, from left, Elder Kenneth M. Thrasher, Utica Campus alumnus; Beverly Trimble, coordinator of Workforce Investment Act; Hinds President Dr. Clyde Muse, Utica and Vicksburg-Warren Campus Vice President Dr. Debra Mays-Jackson; Dr. Clara Lee, daughter of Louis Lee; Dr. Bobby Cooper, Jubilee Singers director and honoree; Bolton Mayor Lawrence Butler and Hinds Board of Trustees President Robert Pickett.

 

Dr. Bobby G. Cooper, director of the Jubilee Singers at Hinds Community College's Utica Campus

Dr. Bobby G. Cooper, director of the Jubilee Singers at Hinds Community College’s Utica Campus

 

Current and former members of the Utica Campus Jubilee Singers gathered to honor Dr. Bobby Cooper during the Sept. 25 ceremony naming the building for Cooper. It's now the Bobby G. Cooper Fine Arts Center.

Current and former members of the Utica Campus Jubilee Singers gathered to honor Dr. Bobby Cooper during the Sept. 25 ceremony naming the building for Cooper. It’s now the Bobby G. Cooper Fine Arts Center.

 

Family members of Dr. Bobby Cooper gather for the ribbon-cutting for the building on the Utica Campus.

Family members of Dr. Bobby Cooper gather for the ribbon-cutting for the building on the Utica Campus.

Hinds Community College honored two distinguished Utica Campus employees and musicians by renaming buildings in their honor on Sept. 25.

The Fine Arts Building on the Utica Campus was renamed the Bobby G. Cooper Fine Arts Center, after the chairman of the Humanities Division and coordinator of music and art. He is best known as the director of the renowned Jubilee Singers, the historical African-American spiritual vocal group that traces its roots to the 1920s. As part of the ceremony, a number of former Jubilee Singers joined current members to perform on stage at the Cooper Center.

Cooper attended Tougaloo College, the University of Illinois and the University of Colorado, furthering his studies at Chicago Musical College.

“My love affair with this campus started in August 1972,” Cooper said. “Little did I know that that love affair would someday be turned into a building that would bear the name Bobby G. Cooper Fine Arts Center. What a thrill! I am indeed humbled by this honor.”

The building that housed the band for Hinds Agricultural High School on the Utica Campus is now the Louis Edward Leon Lee Classroom Building after the former music instructor and band director who retired in 1992 and died in 2007. Lee received a Bachelor of Science degree in music at the Jackson College for Negro Teachers (now Jackson State University). He was a member of the Jackson College band and Omega Psi Phi Fraternity.

Dr. Clara Lee, representing the Lee family, said the Utica Campus as well as the community was special to her father. “Louis Lee loved this campus. For 39 years he drove 70 miles (from Jackson) to come here to be with the students and be a part of the faculty,” she said. “It is such an amazing blessing to know that Louis Edward Leon Lee’s name will forever be a part of this campus. And it’s so special because I can certainly tell all of you that you will always certainly be a part of him.”

Hinds President Dr. Clyde Muse knew both men.  Lee “was a great teacher, he was well liked and certainly deserving of his name being on the building, a building in which he taught for so many years,” he said.

Muse credited Cooper with resurrecting the Jubilee Singers, which had long time been identified with the campus.  “He is one of the best ambassadors this college has and we appreciate him,” Muse said.

Current Utica Campus Vice President Dr. Debra Mays-Jackson was a student of both men. Cooper convinced her to change her major from accounting to music. Lee was responsible for teaching her to play the saxophone.

“I am only one of countless students who have personal and precious stories we will cherish for a lifetime,” she said. “As with music, both Mr. Lee and Dr. Cooper have shown no boundaries, no biases, no prejudices. They have exposed and nurtured thousands of students.

 “Their humble spirits resonate from each conversation and performance. Their contributions have enhanced the music department and enriched the culture of the Utica Campus as a whole surpassing our surface knowledge of their work,” Mays-Jackson said.

Bolton Mayor Lawrence Butler was a driving force behind the naming of the Cooper Center.

“When I think of Dr. Cooper, I think of a man of faith and education, a man who has really committed himself to the Utica Campus of Hinds Community College,” he said. “From now on when we talk about Utica … this is what I’m going to say. ‘You go to Utica. Look to your left. It’s Dr. Cooper’s building.’ ”

Robert Pickett, president of the Hinds Board of Trustees, was a contemporary of Lee at a Brookhaven high school. “He mentored me; he taught me how to play,” Pickett said. “He was a good person. I don’t think he ever changed. He was a kind person, always liked to make jokes and converse with you.”

“When the college and the Board of Trustees make the decision to name a building in honor or memory of the individual, it is a decision made with deliberate thought,” Pickett said. “I think this event is significant because we’re honoring two people who have dedicated their entire lives at this institution.”

For more information about the Utica Campus, see http://www.hindscc.edu/Map_Locations/ut/default.aspx

 

 

30 September, 2014 News more
Posted by on 22 November

Utica Campus choir to perform Christmas Cantata

The 45-member voice choir of the Choral Music Department on the Utica Campus, under the leadership of Dr. Bobby G. Cooper, will perform Cantata #142, “uns ist ein kind geboren,” at 12:30 p.m. Dec. 4 in the Fine Arts Building Auditorium.

The Cantata, which has been contributed to J.S. Bach, was originally written in German but will be performed in English.

ChristmasConcert2013

 

The Cantata begins with a short overture that sets an anticipatory mood for the first choral movement, “for us a child is born.” This exciting movement is the longest of the work, imitative in musical style, followed by an aria for bass and a chorus of praise in triple meter, homophonic texture, and fast tempo. A tenor aria precedes a recitative and aria for alto. A concluding movement is an energetic chorale of praise entitled “Alleluia” that is simply written for the chorus but with a soaring continuously flowing sixteenth-note melody written above the voices.

Again this year, the Southern String Players, under the leadership of Alejandero Encinas, artistic director of Education for the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra, will provide the accompaniment for the Cantata. Also assisting at the piano for the Christmas work will be Utica native Judy Walker. She has served for many years as the accompanist for the college choir. Guest soloists for the work attributed to Bach will be tenor Jason Walker of Utica and Calvin Bogan of Jackson, a Utica Campus baritone graduate and Jackson State University senior music performance major.

The renowned Utica Jubilee Singers will also perform in the winter concert. Their repertoire will consist of original materials as performed by the founding Utica Jubilee Singers. Additionally, they will sing contemporary Christmas tunes, spirituals and blues genres.

Tamarceo Show of Florence and Jasmine Jones of Jackson will be featured soloists at the winter concert. Shaw, a Utica Campus music graduate, received a Bachelor of Music Performance degree in April 2012 from Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa. Jones is a Utica Campus sophomore graphic design major.

A variety of well-known anthems and spirituals will also be featured during the concert. As customary, the concert will conclude with a number of rousing renditions of contemporary gospel selections. Cedric Smith, Calvin Bogan, Jeremy Bew, Maurice Durr, Raphael McDonald, Cedric Stinson and Dijhonne Singleton, all Utica Campus graduates and former Jubilees, will assist the choir with this section of gospel music.

The concert will be dedicated to Frank Crump Jr., who was a long time director and faculty of Vocational-Technical Education on the Utica Campus, and Jimmie Lewis, a graduate of both Hinds AHS and Utica Junior College, who was an outstanding member and soloist with the college choir.

Admission to the concert is free and open to the public.

For more information, contact Dr. Bobby Cooper at .601.885.7079 or see the Hinds website at www.hindscc.edu or http://www.hindscc.edu/Map_Locations/ut/default.aspx.

22 November, 2013 News more