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Contact: Harriet Laird
STARKVILLE, Miss.—A legend of Mississippi State’s Famous Maroon Band is being remembered and celebrated with the naming of the university’s Kent Sills Band Hall.
Band alumni, current members, university employees, retirees and friends of the late Sills, director of bands from 1983-1999, paid tribute to the former MSU professor and founder of many MSU music education programs during a building dedication ceremony Friday [Sept. 10] sponsored by the MSU Foundation.
MSU President Mark E. Keenum commemorated the naming of the Sills Band Hall on Hardy Road by applauding the former director for his commitment to excellence.
“To this day, Kent Sills remains a legendary figure at Mississippi State for his many contributions, not just to music, but the entire university,” Keenum said. “There’s no better way to recognize his passion for music, music education and teaching than by adding his name to this facility.”
A halftime video presentation and recognition during Saturday’s football game also honored Sills’ influence on hundreds of students, the university and the community.
As only the sixth director appointed in the band’s more than 120-year history, Sills joined the MSU faculty in 1967 as assistant director of bands before taking the helm in 1983. During his tenure, he also created the MSU Stage Band and began the university’s Jazz Band Festival and Junior High Band Festival. Numerous festivals and clinics benefited from his service as an adjudicator and conductor.
MSU Director of Bands Elva Kay Lance said Sills’ leadership abilities weren’t just about music.
“In addition to making music, band members loved his laugh. He knew that through laughter relationships are built. We’re family thanks to Kent Sills’ leadership,” she said.
Along with the MSU band, Sills managed and directed the Mississippi Lions All-State High School Band from 1983-1997. Under his tutelage, the Lions Band earned seven international championships, never finishing below second place in any competitive performance in Asia, Australia and across North America.
Selected to the Mississippi Bandmasters Hall of Fame in 2000, the Kosciusko native also was named “Outstanding Contributor to Bands for the State of Mississippi” in 1996 by Phi Beta Mu bandmasters fraternity. Along with his Phi Beta Mu membership, he served in professional organizations that included the College Band Directors National Association, Mississippi Bandmasters Association, and National Association of College Wind and Percussion Instructors.
“Along with seeds of leadership, he planted seeds of servanthood to MSU and the community, compassion for those who didn’t fit in, and integrity. He poured his heart, soul and life into this university and the community,” said Sills’ son, Dr. Allen Sills, who serves as chief medical officer for the NFL and professor of neurological surgery at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. Kent Sills’ wife, Nora, and other family members also attended the weekend festivities.
The late Sills, who died in 2006, received a Bachelor of Music Education degree before earning a 1959 Master of Education degree, both from the University of Southern Mississippi. He later earned Master of Music and Doctor of Arts degrees from the University of Mississippi.
Sills was a U.S. Army veteran and performed with the U.S. Army Reserve Band. For six years, from 1954-1960, he traveled the country and performed with his swing band “Kent Sills and His Southernaires.”
MSU is Mississippi’s leading university, available online at www.msstate.edu.
Photos by Megan Bean
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