Mississippi Musicians Star in Riley Center Fall/Winter Performing Arts Series

MERIDIAN, MS – The Mississippi State University Riley Center for Education and Performing Arts announces a 2021-2022 Fall/Winter Performing Arts Series full of celebration, opening with a concert on Aug. 21 by hometown favorite Todd Tilghman.

The series features two inspiring holiday-themed shows, plus lots of great country and blues music. There’s even a bonus performance, in addition to the series itself, by an American musical master.

The MSU Riley Center also celebrates the easing of pandemic-related restrictions and the continuing renaissance of historic downtown Meridian. Just steps from the center, a new Marriott hotel in the landmark Threefoot Building and a brewpub from Threefoot Brewing are expected to be open by the time the series begins.

“We take inspiration from our beautiful theater itself,” said Dr. Terry Dale Cruse, Associate Vice President and Head of Mississippi State University-Meridian Campus. “It has survived so much, and now it’s an elegantly restored gem that serves as a point of pride for all of Meridian and our region.

“We had to deal with the greatest public health crisis of our lifetimes over the past year-plus. We’ve come through it stronger and better than ever, and ready to welcome everyone back for some entertainment that is sure to delight. We’re also pleased to showcase so many award-winning and critically-acclaimed artists from Mississippi.”

Tilghman, an amiable pastor with a singing style he calls “soul country,” won the national TV competition “The Voice.” The concert’s opening act will be three Nashville-based, Meridian-born siblings: Jenna, Ben and KK Johnson, collectively known as Track45.

Next, on Sept. 30, comes richly expressive vocalist (and Mississippi native) LeAnn Rimes with an intimate acoustic show perfect for the Riley Center’s exquisite ambience.

The made-in-Mississippi theme continues on Oct. 1 with Shake & Holla, featuring the North Mississippi Allstars and Rebirth Brass Band, and featuring Cedric Burnside, in association with AMP Worldwide and Belly Up Entertainment. Burnside was just named a 2021 National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellow, the nation’s highest honor in folk and traditional arts. The concert unites two great musical traditions: Mississippi Hill Country blues from the Allstars and Burnside, and funky New Orleans jazz from Rebirth.

On Oct. 28, just in time for Halloween, Manual Cinema presents a spooky, thrilling reimagining of the classic Gothic horror tale “Frankenstein,” spicing up the story with biographical details from the life of the original novel’s author, Mary Shelley. Internationally-renowned multimedia company Manual Cinema combines handmade shadow puppetry, cinematic techniques, and innovative sound and music to create immersive visual stories, a first of its kind presentation for the MSU Riley Center.

Easton Corbin, half country traditionalist and half contemporary heartthrob, brings his distinctively Southern baritone to the Riley Center on Nov. 18.

CeCe Winans, the best-selling and most-honored female gospel artist of all time, kicks the Christmas countdown into high gear on Dec. 11 with an uplifting, joyful salute to the season.

Finally, on Jan. 29, 2022, bluegrass virtuosos Sam Bush and Mike Marshall join father-and-son classical musicians Edgar and George Meyer for a genre-blending evening of extraordinary string music.

As for the bonus, that comes Nov. 6 with a solo acoustic concert by pianist Bruce Hornsby, one of the most inventive and versatile musical giants of our time. The concert had been scheduled for last year and postponed because of the pandemic. Previously purchased tickets will be honored.

All performances start at 7:30 p.m. Ticket prices vary by show. Concessions offerings include wine, beer and bottled water.

The 2021-2022 Fall/Winter Performing Arts Series offers a range of season-ticket options starting at $225 and up to $500 per person. A Build Your Own (BYO) package is also offered allowing patrons to pick three or more shows and receive a discounted ticket price along with the option of selecting their seats ahead of single show ticket buyers. Season subscription renewals are being accepted now. New season packages go on sale Monday, June 28, while BYO packages go on sale Friday, July 2, and single show sales start Monday, July 12. Call 601.696.2200 or visit www.msurileycenter.com.

While keeping its guests’ safety as its top priority, the MSU Riley Center has been easing COVID-19 restrictions in keeping with university policy and best practices from medical experts. For current protocols, see www.msurileycenter.com.

The MSU Riley Center thanks The Riley Foundation, The Phil Hardin Foundation and Mississippi State University. Their continuing support makes these shows possible.

2021-2022 Fall/Winter Performing Arts Series in detail:


Saturday, Aug. 21, 7:30 p.m. | $20 to $60

Meridian’s own Todd Tilghman will kick off the season with help from another hometown favorite, the sibling trio Track45. Tilghman, an easygoing church pastor with an engaging grin, shot to stardom last year when he won the TV talent competition “The Voice.” He calls his style “soul country,” a blend of gospel, contemporary Christian pop and country music delivered straight from the heart. Track45’s Jenna, Ben and KK Johnson have used the family-based small-town values they learned in Meridian to build successful careers in Nashville. Each is a gifted songwriter and musician. Together, their crystalline vocal harmonies sound current yet classic. Come to opening night of our new Performing Arts Series and enjoy these hometown heroes.


Thursday, Sept. 30, 7:30 p.m. | $30 to $100

The incredibly expressive soprano voice of LeAnn Rimes will find its perfect setting at the MSU Riley Center for this intimate acoustic concert. Rimes has sold more than 44 million records since, at age 14, she became the youngest Grammy Award winner ever after her smash-hit debut “Blue.” She has earned many other honors, including, last December, top prize in “The Masked Singer” TV competition as the Sun. Such recent songs as “Throw My Arms around the World” have conveyed her passion for using her voice to help heal those who are hurting. The Riley Center’s splendid acoustics will let every bit of emotion ring out as clear as crystal.

Shake & Holla Featuring:


In Association with AMP Worldwide and Belly Up Entertainment

Friday, Oct. 1, 7:30 p.m. | $25 to $75

The Shake & Holla tour showcases foot-stomping Mississippi Hill Country blues and the funky,  syncopated sounds of New Orleans brass, two great Southern musical traditions. The North Mississippi Allstars, featuring brothers Luther and Cody Dickinson, have won a Blues Music Award and have been nominated four times for a Grammy Award. The Grammy-winning Rebirth Brass Band has been a New Orleans institution since its founding in 1983. Mississippi blues guitarist, vocalist and drummer Cedric Burnside, a three-time Grammy nominee (and grandson of the late blues singer-guitarist R.L. Burnside), will also perform. The three artists will  play separately as well as collaborate throughout the show, exploring the musical connection between the Mississippi Delta and Bourbon Street.

Manual Cinema:


Thursday, Oct. 28, 7:30 p.m. | $22 to $65

Love, loss and creation merge in unexpected ways as Manual Cinema presents its thrilling version of the classic Gothic tale “Frankenstein.” The Chicago-based performance collective imaginatively combines shadow puppetry, cinematic techniques, sound effects and live music in haunting shows like nothing else you’ve ever seen. Manual Cinema stitches together the classic tale of Frankenstein with the biography of the original novel’s author, Mary Shelley, to create an unexpected story about the beauty and horror of creation. The real-life and fictional narratives of Shelley, Victor Frankenstein and Frankenstein’s monster expose how family, community and education shape personhood – or destroy it by their absence.

BRUCE HORNSBY (sold separately, not part of the season package)

Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021, 7:30 p.m. | $48 to $100

Bruce Hornsby has collaborated with amazing musicians who have reflected his wide-ranging tastes, including rock icons The Grateful Dead, bluegrass legend Ricky Skaggs, and jazz virtuosos Christian McBride and Jack DeJohnette. His solo shows, however, dig deepest into his heart. Sitting at the piano, he connects with each member of the audience as if they were alone in his living room, sharing his fears and hopes, tragedies and triumphs, sorrows and joys. So it will be at the MSU Riley Center. Come experience an American musical master exploring the eclectic delights of his latest album, “Non-Secure Connection,” and other favorites from his restlessly creative life.


Thursday, Nov. 18, 7:30 p.m. | $48 to $100

Easton Corbin’s distinctive Southern baritone has graced the airwaves since his chart-topping 2009 debut single, “A Little More Country Than That.” That song earned him Breakthrough Artist of the Year honors at the 2010 American Country Awards. He followed with such other hits as “Roll with It,” “Lovin’ You Is Fun,” “All Over the Road,” “Baby Be My Love Song” and “A Girl Like You.” His songs and live shows reflect the passion for traditional country music that he developed while growing up in rural North Florida. “For me,” he said, “it’s about keeping one foot in the traditional and one foot in the modern and marrying those two.”


Saturday, Dec. 11, 7:30 p.m. | $50 to $115

Here’s a holiday show full of joy and love. The best-selling and most-awarded female gospel artist of all time, CeCe Winans has won a staggering 12 Grammy Awards, 23 Dove Awards, 15 Stellar Awards and many other honors. She’s a member of the Gospel Music Hall of Fame. Winans and her husband, Alvin Love II, are pastors at Nashville Life Church in Tennessee, and their son, Alvin Love III, is executive pastor. So it’s no surprise that she has always applied what one critic called her “glorious, octave-spanning voice” to gospel music in all its variations. She has followed one simple rule: “I’m a firm believer that it has to touch my heart before I feel like I can really touch somebody else’s.”


Saturday, Jan. 29, 2022, 7:30 p.m. | $25 to $75

American music masters Sam Bush, Mike Marshall and Edgar Meyer join with George Meyer for the kind of special collaboration usually heard only at a bluegrass festival. Bush and Marshall are mandolin virtuosos rooted in bluegrass. The Meyers (George on acoustic bass, son Edgar on violin) come from the classical world. Together, they make acoustic music that can only be categorized as “amazing.” You’ll hear works from the 1999 genre-bending album “Short Trip Home” (which featured Bush, Marshall and the elder Meyer), plus new music written for this tour. Four musical stars are coming together in a burst of creativity; don’t miss it!

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