Summer Scholars keep the beat going

July 17, 2010 9:12:00 PM

Jan Swoope - [email protected]


Participants at the 2010 Mississippi State University Summer Scholars camps currently in progress have been busy writing and producing an original musical comedy to present to the public. 


Fifty-six rising gifted and talented high school juniors and seniors will present "And the Beat Goes On" Friday, July 23, at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, July 24, at 1:30 p.m. in McComas Theatre on the campus of MSU. The approximate two and a half hour shows are free and appropriate for all ages. 


The three-act play was written by 25 area students attending the Writers'' Camp July 4-10. During Production Camp, currently underway, the larger cast of actors, singers, and dancers comes together to produce the show. 


Summer Scholars On-Stage began in 1982, the brainchild of MSU professor Joe Ray Underwood. The program has grown from a 20-minute skit into a three-week creative experience, which culminates annually with a public performance.  




Meet the Clearwaters 


Starkville native Eric Fritzius, currently residing in West Virginia, led the group of teenagers who wrote the script. According to Fritzius, a published author of short stories and plays, the group has "created an entertaining and humorous look at music over a span of 40 years." The main storyline centers around three generations of the Clearwater family.  


For 20 years they have seemed like an average suburban household. That is, until the parents discover their teenage daughter, Ivy, is the lead singer in a band -- something they have long forbidden. What seems to be a harmless foray into music is revealed to be a "gateway to danger" when Ivy''s grandparents and parents relate cautionary tales of their own careers in the music industry in the ''70s and ''90s. Their stories lead Ivy to a major life decision, set amidst the backstage chaos of a music festival she has organized against her parents'' wishes.  


"We get a lot of satisfaction out of watching the kids grow up; it''s like a kind of big, extended family," remarked Joe Ray Underwood. "A lot of them come back as assistants after they graduate." 


A good example of that is the camp''s chorus teacher and Starkville resident Joe Evans. He''s been taking part in the scholars camp for 38 years. 


"I started as a camper when I was 13; they were never able to kick me out of the door," laughed the former Columbian, who will soon be teaching at Starkville High School. 


Nancy Underwood, Joe Ray''s wife, is an important element in the camps'' success. 


"It''s wonderful to see the students so totally wrapped up in something that''s so positive," she said. "A lot of them the first year they come are apprehensive, in a new situation with people they don''t know. But they get here and find out the other kids and adults are like them, with a similar interest in the arts. They feel very welcome and comfortable in this environment; it''s hard for them to leave when it''s over." 


Learn more about the Summer Scholars program, and how to apply, at, or contact Joe Ray Underwood at 662-323-8969 or 662-312-2911. Or contact Dixie Cartwright at the MSU Division of Academic Outreach and Continuing Education, 662-325-9191.

Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.