Mississippi Music Makers Promoter
Around Mississippi, Copiah Countian Jim Brewer -- the educator, musician and artist-painter and promoter who established "Mississippi -- Birthplace of America's Music" as a state motto -- is known for his dedication to recognizing Magnolia State musicians and their contributions to the nation's culture.
In the area, people know him as "somebody mixed up with music and art as a painter," he adds.
"And a lot of people just see me as someone who can't hold a job, since I've been a band director, school principal, college professor, educational consultant and founder of the Mississippi Music Hall of Fame," Brewer laughs.
Born in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, in 1933, Brewer settled in Hazlehurst in 2001, where he based his career finale work -- promoting Mississippi music makers after founding the Mississippi Music Hall of Fame.
Growing up in Hattiesburg, the veteran educator recalls, ironically, that school was a difficult experience. "I couldn't concentrate on any one thing, my mind was all over the waterfront," he explains. "People now realize I had a learning disability -- Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)."
Overcoming ADD propelled him into a career path in which music always been a part. As Brewer explained to schools years later as an educational consultant who counseled them about working with ADD children, curing them is a matter of getting them passionately interested in one thing. For Brewer it was music, specifically the trombone.
By the time Brewer graduated from Hattiesburg High School in 1953, his focus on music and the trombone helped him concentrate on other things, successfully take tests and do college work. He earned a BA in music in1957 and a PhD in education in 1973 at the University of Southern Mississippi at Hattiesburg, and pursued a career with stops at Columbia High School as a band director from 1959 to 1964, Columbia Middle School as a principal from 1965 to 1972 and Mississippi College at Clinton as a professor from 1973 to 1980.
In 1980, Brewer started his consulting organization -- Associated Consultants in Education -- in which he worked with schools from East Syracuse, New York, to San Francisco to help them teach under-privileged children until he retired in 1998. He also edited Effective School Report and was named Mr. Effective School in Richmond, Virginia, during his career in consultancy.
It was in 1995 that Brewer's interests turned to enshrining Mississippi musicians, like sports greats are recognized. "It doesn't matter what category of music, you will find top musicians from Mississippi," he points out. "It is a shame not to recognize them and not have our children hearing their music and stories -- particularly the stories of those who overcame tremendous odds to achieve."
Brewer met with interested individuals and representatives of organizations about launching the Mississippi Music Hall of Fame. Led by Brewer, they initially sought the state government's support, persuading Mississippi Commissioner of Agriculture Jim Buck Ross to encompass the Music Hall of Fame within the Agriculture and Forestry Museum in Jackson. In 1996, however, the state legislature refused to fund the project, and Brewer and his music hall of fame board looked to the private sector to help forward their vision.
Since its incorporation in 1998, the Mississippi Music Hall of Fame has opened three museums -- the largest in the musical heritage rich city of Hazlehurst where Brewer started promoting the state's musicians and their role in influencing music throughout the nation. The Hazlehurst museum is inside the historic train depot in the Hazlehurst downtown area, and outside features the Mississippi Musicians Walk of Fame that was dedicated in 2017. The Music Hall of Fame's other museum sites are at the Iron Horse Grill in downtown Jackson and Medgar Evers International Airport. Brewer's organization has inducted more than 140 musicians, which its museums highlights, conducts research and public education programs and maintains a web site (www.msmusic.org).
Brewer and his wife Judith since 1959 have one daughter, an interior designer at Tillman Furniture in Crystal Springs, three grandchildren -- Joshua, who serves in the U.S. Army; and Randle, a Nashville musician; and three great grandchildren -- Ellie, 5, Laney, 3, and Leo James, 1.
What are your hobbies? Over the years, I have done woodworking, built model ships and, of course, read a lot about the history of music -- particularly in Mississippi. But painting has become a passion. I do landscapes in oil, and post them on a web site where visitors can rate them. I display and sell them at the Le Soul restaurant in Hazlehurst.
Are you a reader?
I keep up with events in newspapers and on web sites. I like history, particularly music history. But I enjoy writing for other readers more so. I do a lot of writing. Guides to help Mississippi communities develop displays honoring musicians. Driving Mississippi Copiah County -- a travel route countryside tour guide. I have written three books: Power Management and Power Selling published by Prentice-Hall that draw on my experience as a consultant, and Legendary Musicians Whose Art Has Changed the World.
Do you enjoy movies or theater?
My favorite movie is Patton. My favorite actor is Morgan Freeman, mostly for his politics rather than his performing. He is a true Mississippian.
And music, which has been central to your life?
Mississippi music has been my career focus, of course. But beyond that, I am mostly into classical music and big band jazz. I like Stan Kenton. For several years, I conducted the Brookhaven wind symphony.
What would you do with lottery winnings if you were so lucky? I would give to some favorite charities -- the Music Hall of Fame, of course, and my church -- the Hazlehurst First Baptist Church; and family.
How would you change the world? My museums have tried to bring people together and discourage racial hatred. Those are my causes.