The Grove Challenge, ignited by KHS alumni Phillip Mink and Mike Brunt in January to honor former band director Mickey Grove, has nearly reached its $150,000 goal to renovate Grove Hall, the foyer of the planned Skipworth Performing Arts Center. More than just an entrance lobby, the foyer will showcase band leaders throughout the decades of the KHS Band.
1972 graduate and former Big Red Band member Phillip Mink said he and Brunt created the challenge as a way to pay tribute to Grove and the positive influence he had in their lives.
“When Tim (Alford) started putting this project together, we both got very excited about it. Mr. Grove is a master teacher,” said Mink. “He's really the kind of guy you encounter once in a lifetime, if you're lucky, and we really wanted to pay tribute to that. I think we both feel like we have a lot of our successes in life due to the teaching we got from Mr. Grove.”
Mink and Brunt kicked off the challenge by each donating $10,000, and the two plan on renewing their contribution this year. Grove, KHS band director for nearly two decades, instructed many students under his leadership. Mink is persistent about challenging Grove’s former students to continue or begin donating to the effort in Grove’s honor. The Grove Challenge has currently raised $120,000 of its $150,000 goal.
“We are both going to be giving the same amount to continue this effort, and we would really like to see many of the others of our age group, and those before or after who had Mr. Grove, get involved. It doesn't matter how much they give, just so that they can give some to help us out,” said Mink. “We really want a lot of participation, and that's really why we're doing this. It is to pay tribute to Mr. Grove, but also to get our classmates and bandmates involved.”
Throughout years of working in university settings, Mink said he and Brunt have learned that the arts are vital to great institutions of higher learning, and Mink believes the same standard applies locally.
“To be considered a great institution of higher learning, you've got to have a strong arts program, performance program. Harvard, Yale, Stanford, you name it, they all have those, and I think the same really applies to creating a great high school,” said Mink. “You can have a really, really strong football team, but if your band goes out there at halftime and is really lame and doesn't measure up to the standard set by your football team, it will diminish the view of your school.”
Mink said Dr. Tim Alford has sent him photographs of the Skipworth Center’s progress, and Mink has already been stunned by its beauty. Mink believes the auditorium has the potential to draw people from numerous communities to Kosciusko to enjoy the performing arts.
“What Tim has done so incredibly here is he has put together a performing arts center that I think, in many ways, is gorgeous. I think that place has the potential to be a real drawing card for the whole region. That's what I hope this can be,” said Mink. “It's more than just an arts program, and it's more than just a performance hall. It becomes a matter of great civic pride to have a place like that. We are going to have a concert there in June when we bring the Lion’s Band there, and that's quite a plum to bring into a small town in Central Mississippi.”
Mink said he and Brunt attribute much of their successes in life to being raised in Kosciusko and studying under Grove. While the two have moved elsewhere in their successful careers, Mink said they stay connected with Kosciusko from afar, and they care deeply about what happens here.
“Mike and I are very proud of our association with Mr. Grove and our association with the town of Kosciusko. It is just a fantastic place to grow up, and we loved it there. Like I say, we attribute much of our successes in life to coming from that town and having a teacher like Mr. Grove,” said Mink. “So, we're honoring it from afar, and we're tracking the progress from afar, but we're very attached to what's going on there. We really want this fantastic hall to come together, so we encourage people to donate as much as they can spare for the betterment of the town and to honor Mr. Grove.”
Dr. Tim Alford said Mink and Brunt really “fired up the base” of former Grove students, which in turn gave people an overall sense of the project and led many to further contribute.
“There are so many students, 19 years’ worth of students, that (Grove) impacted. Plus, all of his emeritus work afterwards has produced a lot of students,” said Alford. “We set a goal for $100,000 by this time of the year, and we exceeded that. Not to take pressure off of people giving because we still have about $1.7 million to go (overall), but it has definitely ignited an interest that would not have been there had it not been for their idea.”
Mink said none of this would have been possible without Alford and his unwavering dedication.
“We want to emphasize how much we respect what Tim Alford has done with this project. The man started with nothing but a concept,” said Mink. “And now that his work is coming to fruition, we all owe him a debt of gratitude for the brilliance and willpower he has shown over the last two years. The man has gotten it done. We cannot wait to see Skipworth in Summer ‘22!”