Madison Couple Establishes Fund for Russian Folk Instrument Orchestra

Gift to support Ford Center programming and outreach efforts

The Russian Folk Instrument Orchestra will perform at the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts in October, thanks to a $20,000 gift by Billy and Rebecca Long. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – The Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts will bring the Russian Folk Instrument Orchestra to the University of Mississippi this fall, thanks to a generous gift from Dr. Billy and Rebecca Long of Madison.

The $20,000 gift established the FCPA Russian Folk Instrument Orchestra Fund. The Longs became interested in assisting the Ford Center through Cheryle Sims, a Ford Foundation board member and former patient of Long’s.

“Several years ago, she invited us to attend a ballet performance and introduced us to this wonderful facility,” he said. “Since then, we have gotten progressively more interested in attending various events. We realize what a wonderful venue the Ford Center offers to the greater Mississippi community.”

Last year, the Longs traveled to Russia and attended several opera, ballet and symphony performances in Moscow and St. Petersburg while also touring academies where young Russians are trained in artistic skills. The UM alumnus and longtime Ole Miss sports fan wanted to provide a way to bring these performers to the United States.

Billy and Rebecca Long visit St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow. Their $20,000 gift to the Ford Center will allow the Russian Folk Instrument Orchestra to perform in Oxford in October. Submitted photo

“We are excited about the future offerings at the Ford Center, and the intention to promote the performing arts to a wider audience,” Long said. “I hope that our interest in the Ford Center may spark an interest in our junior high and high school students to see live performances. 

“The Ford Center is an essential part of the university’s outreach to Oxford and the surrounding area, but also to our college students who wish to develop an appreciation for the performing arts, and even become a performer themselves.”

The performance is set for Oct. 3 and will include an outreach activity earlier that day for area students, said Julia Aubrey, Ford Center director.

“It will be an international cultural event that will appeal to arts enthusiasts of all ages, and I believe our Oxford audience will embrace this group of talented young musicians and welcome them into our community,” she said.

To contribute to programming at the Ford Center, contact Angela Barlow Brown at 662-915-3181 or ambarlow@olemiss.edu.