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‘Passion Project’: Professor, musicians organize benefit concert

This is a press release from the University of Southern Mississippi.

HATTIESBURG, Miss. - When Galit Kaunitz realized there was a food pantry on campus at The University of Southern Mississippi, she began allocating part of her monthly grocery budget to donate. Now, the School of Music faculty member is trying to make an even bigger impact – and she’s bringing dozens of her colleagues and music students into the mix as well.

Kaunitz, who started her fourth year as an assistant professor of oboe this fall, has organized two benefit concerts for the Eagle’s Nest food pantry on the Hattiesburg campus.

The first is 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 1, at the Marsh Hall Auditorium; the second is 6 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2019, at University Baptist Church, 3200 W. Arlington Loop. Admission is free with the donation of at least one non-perishable food item for the Eagle’s Nest.

I just found out that we have a food pantry last year,” Kaunitz says. “I was going over and making a contribution from my family, and I noticed just how much food they distribute to students and how much they need in order to distribute to students. I think it’s really special that we have a food pantry on campus.

“We have a lot of students who struggle with food insecurity. Going to school is expensive, the fees are expensive, and buying supplies is expensive. And some people come to college with fewer resources than others, so it’s a really great service opportunity to be able to help our students stay in school, be healthy, and be fed.”

Holding a benefit concert was a no-brainer for a musician, says Kaunitz, who teaches oboe and a writing class for graduate music majors. “I really love that we have this food pantry, and I want to help as much as possible. The idea for a benefit concert was just a natural extension of trying to use our resources in any way we can to help.”

The two-year-old Eagle’s Nest, an initiative started by the School of Social Work and managed by its graduate student organization, is open eight hours a week for students, staff or faculty who experience temporary challenges meeting their basic needs of food or other necessities. On average, it distributes 400 pounds of food to 120 clients each week.

“The USM Eagle’s Nest Food Pantry is grateful for the ongoing support of the USM School of Music,” says Dr. Tamara Hurst, assistant professor of social work and faculty adviser to the pantry. “We are appreciative of their creativity and heartfelt contributions. The outpouring of assistance from the School of Music and the USM community goes a long way toward showing our clients how much we care about their future and their success.

“We hope the USM and Hattiesburg community will join us for this extraordinary event.”

Kaunitz calls the November performance a “collage concert,” featuring a premiere by Hattiesburg composer and School of Music alumnus Ron Hancock, a three-movement oboe-and-bassoon piece; student choral groups; the Vibe Saxophone Quartet and the flute choir; Dr. Nick Ciraldo on the guitar; and a performance by music director Dr. Richard Kravchak on a vintage oboe, with pianist Michael Bunchman.

“It’s going to be a really fun and exciting concert,” she says. “There’s going to be something for everyone.”

Although the Valentine’s Eve concert lineup is not set, Kaunitz says she anticipates a similar concept that will be “equally as great. What better way to show your love for your neighbor than donating to the food pantry?”

It’s that sense of unity that is driving her involvement and the School of Music’s contributions.

“It’s a passion project for me,” Kaunitz says. “I love collaborating with the School of Social Work. … I love that the School of Social Work is doing something like this (the pantry). And I think it’s such an important aspect of Southern Miss that I’m all in and want to help as much as I can.

“We’re one university community, and it’s great when we can lift each other up and support each other.”

For more information about the concerts, contact Kaunitz at or 601.266.6042. For more information about the Eagle’s Nest, email

The Eagle 8: The Nest’s Top Donation Needs

  • Canned milk

  • Canned tuna or canned chicken

  • Fruit cups

  • Mac and cheese

  • Spaghetti or macaroni noodles

  • Spaghetti sauce

  • Microwaveable non-frozen meals

  • Peanut butter



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