Little Rock Culture Vulture

Cultural events, places and people in the Little Rock area


Little Rock Look Back: Miss America in Little Rock

Tonight a new Miss America will be crowned.  Arkansas’ own Savvy Shields will conclude her whirlwind year as the third Miss America to come from the Natural State.

Earlier this year, two of Arkansas’ three Miss Americas were in Little Rock for the Miss Arkansas pageant.  So as Savvy wraps up her reign, it seems a good time to remember when Donna Axum first brought the Miss America title to Arkansas.

A native of El Dorado and a student at the University of Arkansas, during her reign as Miss America Miss Axum (or simply Donna as the newspaper headlines referred to her) made four public visits to Little Rock.  As the first Miss Arkansas to become Miss America, the state’s Capitol City was very interested in giving her a warm welcome.

After being crowned on September 7, 1963, Axum’s first official visit to Arkansas was November 1 through 3.  In addition to stops in Hot Springs and El Dorado, she appeared in Little Rock to attend events including an Arkansas Razorback football game at War Memorial Stadium.  Her entourage included the top four runners up from the Miss America pageant.

In February 1964, she made a brief appearance in Little Rock which included a press conference.

Donna Axum spent nearly two weeks in Arkansas in May 1964 attending several pageants as well as spending time with family.  During that visit she appeared in Little Rock twice.  The second time she headlined a concert with the Arkansas Symphony (not related to the current Arkansas Symphony Orchestra) and the Arkansas Choral Society. It took place at Robinson Auditorium.

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Little Rock Look Back: Miss America comes to Little Rock

miss america axumToday, Miss America 2017 Savvy Shields comes to Little Rock as part of her official homecoming to Arkansas after winning the crown.  In honor of that, we take a look back to the first visit to Arkansas by Donna Axum, who was the first Miss Arkansas to win the title of Miss America.

A native of El Dorado and a student at the University of Arkansas, during her reign as Miss America Miss Axum (or simply Donna as the newspaper headlines referred to her) made four public visits to Little Rock.  As the first Miss Arkansas to become Miss America, the state’s Capitol City was very interested in giving her a warm welcome.

After being crowned on September 7, 1963, her first visit to Arkansas was November 1 through 3.  In addition to stops in Hot Springs and El Dorado, she appeared in Little Rock to attend events including an Arkansas Razorback football game at War Memorial Stadium.  Her entourage included the top four runners up from the Miss America pageant.

In February 1964, she made a brief appearance in Little Rock which included a press conference.

Donna Axum spent nearly two weeks in Arkansas in May 1964 attending several pageants as well as spending time with family.  During that visit she appeared in Little Rock twice.  The second time she headlined a concert with the Arkansas Symphony (not related to the current Arkansas Symphony Orchestra) and the Arkansas Choral Society. It took place at Robinson Auditorium.


Little Rock Look Back: There She Is – Miss America at a LR Razorback Game

miss america axumTonight a new Miss America will be crowned.  This ceremony marks the 52nd anniversary since Miss America 1964, Arkansan Donna Axum, was crowned.

A native of El Dorado and a student at the University of Arkansas, during her reign as Miss America Miss Axum (or simply Donna as the newspaper headlines referred to her) made four public visits to Little Rock.  As the first Miss Arkansas to become Miss America, the state’s Capitol City was very interested in giving her a warm welcome.

After being crowned on September 7, 1963, her first visit to Arkansas was November 1 through 3.  In addition to stops in Hot Springs and El Dorado, she appeared in Little Rock to attend events including an Arkansas Razorback football game at War Memorial Stadium.  Her entourage included the top four runners up from the Miss America pageant.

In February 1964, she made a brief appearance in Little Rock which included a press conference.

Donna Axum spent nearly two weeks in Arkansas in May 1964 attending several pageants as well as spending time with family.  During that visit she appeared in Little Rock twice.  The second time she headlined a concert with the Arkansas Symphony (not related to the current Arkansas Symphony Orchestra) and the Arkansas Choral Society. It took place at Robinson Auditorium.


Women’s History Month Throwback Thursday: The Little Rock Musical Coterie



In 1893 Mrs. Elizabeth Pierce Lyman (pictured at left), Mrs. Susie Pierce Stephens, and Mrs. Effie Miller Williams were invited to the home of Mrs. Cora Cross Marshall for tea and the express purpose of forming a music club. From this grew the organization now known as the Little Rock Musical Coterie.

Meetings of the Little Rock Musical Coterie were first held in members’ homes, and by January 1904, the organization had become well enough established to be featured in Arkansas Life magazine in an article marking its first decade as `a notable institution for the promotion of musical talent and higher culture * * * the leading organization of its kind in the Southeast.’

Meetings, with concerts, were held monthly from September through May, and from members’ homes moved to various city locations, including the Masonic Temple, the Christian Temple at Tenth and Louisiana, the Hotel Marion, Robinson Auditorium, and the Arkansas Arts Center.

From its modest beginnings, the coterie was more than just an opportunity for like-minded individuals to get together to make music. Perhaps because the membership has always included a good percentage of music teachers, the main interest and concern has been to foster musical talent in the young and provide financial support wherever possible.

In 1898 similar music clubs around the Nation formed the National Federation of Music Clubs [NFMC], which Arkansas joined in 1915, becoming one of the first States to affiliate with the national organization.

In 1904 the coterie voted to send $25 to the NFMC convention toward prize money for an American composition contest, the first such contribution recorded in the history of American music clubs.

In 1973 the coterie was incorporated as a nonprofit corporation and received tax-exempt status. Over the years, the Little Rock Musical Coterie has been in the forefront of movements that later resulted in the formation of the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, the Arkansas Choral Society, the Arkansas Opera Theatre, and the Community Concerts organization.

Annually, the coterie sponsors or promotes competitions and awards designed to encourage young musicians. The Hildegard Smith Award, in the amount of $1,000, is given each year to a university student. The Crusade for Strings competition, part of a national program of the same name, is open to elementary and secondary school students, winners receiving cash prizes and an opportunity to perform on a coterie program.

Programs for young musicians are organized and promoted through 11 junior music clubs and junior festivals are held in February.

The coterie contributes to the Butterfield Endowment Fund, which provides scholarships to the opera workshop and festival at Inspiration Point in Eureka Springs, presents the Stillman-Kelly Scholarship quadrennially, and the Wendell Irish Viola Award.

In the of cutbacks and budget constraints, organizations like the Little Rock Musical Coterie fill the void in school music curricula, as well as touch many other areas of the community through its actions in the cause of music.

On the occasion of the 100th anniversary, Senator Dale Bumpers delivered an address on the floor of the Senate extolling the virtues of the LR Musical Coterie. 


Handel’s MESSIAH presented tonight by the Arkansas Choral Society

Arkansas Choral SocietyFor some, it just isn’t the Christmas season without a performance of Handel’s oratorio Messiah.

Tonight the Arkansas Choral Society and the University of Arkansas at Monticello Concert and Chamber Choirs will will present the 84th Annual Presentation of Handel’s Messiah. This is the longest running continuous holiday celebration in Central Arkansas.

The performance will begin at 7:30pm. Doors open at 6:30pm. Tickets may be purchased at the door. The performance will take place at the First Pentecostal Church in North Little Rock.


Little Rock Look Back: Miss America 1964 comes to Little Rock

Photo from Encyclopedia of Arkansas, courtesy of Mike Polston

Photo from Encyclopedia of Arkansas, courtesy of Mike Polston

Tonight a new Miss America will be crowned.  This ceremony marks the 50th anniversary since Miss America 1964, Arkansan Donna Axum, ended her reign.

A native of El Dorado and a student at the University of Arkansas, during her reign as Miss America Miss Axum (or simply Donna as the newspaper headlines referred to her) made four public visits to Little Rock.  As the first Miss Arkansas to become Miss America, the state’s Capitol City was very interested in giving her a warm welcome.

After being crowned on September 7, 1963, her first visit to Arkansas was November 1 through 3.  In addition to stops in Hot Springs and El Dorado, she appeared in Little Rock to attend events including an Arkansas Razorback football game at War Memorial Stadium.  Her entourage included the top four runners up from the Miss America pageant.

In February 1964, she made a brief appearance in Little Rock which included a press conference.

Donna Axum spent nearly two weeks in Arkansas in May 1964 attending several pageants as well as spending time with family.  During that visit she appeared in Little Rock twice.  The second time she headlined a concert with the Arkansas Symphony (not related to the current Arkansas Symphony Orchestra) and the Arkansas Choral Society. It took place at Robinson Auditorium.


Handel’s MESSIAH tonight

PhotoThe Arkansas Choral Society’s annual presentation of selections from Handel’s MESSIAH takes place tonight.

Tonight’s performance of will consist of the Christmas portion of Handel’s oratorio Messiah plus some selected other choruses and solos. The ACS will be joined by the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff Vesper Choir.  They will be accompanied by musicians from the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra.

The performance takes place at 7:30 p.m. tonight at the First Pentecostal Church, 1401 Calvary Drive (off Interstate 40), North Little Rock. Tickets: $15, $10 students. Call (501) 376-8484 for more information.

The Arkansas Choral Society is under the direction of Dr. Kent Skinner.  He is currently the Director of Choral Activities for the University of Arkansas at Monticello. In this capacity, Dr. SKinner leads the choral program and serves as both stage and music director for the university’s opera and music theatre.

The Arkansas Choral Society is central Arkansas’s oldest continually operating musical organization. Best known for performing Handel’s Messiah in whole or in part every year since 1930, the Society’s repertoire includes both classical and contemporary works. Historically the group has traveled Arkansas performing concerts and has also performed at special events such as the Arkansas Sesquicentennial Celebration in 1986.

The Arkansas Choral Society partners with high school and college choirs throughout Arkansas for its performances, and offers scholarships for college students. The mission of the Arkansas Choral Society is to further and improve choral singing in Arkansas, by performing Handel’s Messiah on an annual basis; by partnering with Arkansas college and high school choruses; and by awarding scholarships to choral singers who are or will be college students, while inviting everyone to join us and to attend our concerts.