JSU alumna Nellie McInnis, also known as “Nellie Mack” has been chosen as a recipient for the 2021 Governor’s Arts Award. Recognized for being the first female bass player in Mississippi, she has toured nationally and internationally and has performed with Clark Terry, Henry Mancini, Ellis Marsalis, Dizzy Gillespie, Dorothy Moore, Pat Brown and many others.
Expressing gratitude, McInnis says, “What God has for you is for you. Never in my wildest dreams did I think about receiving this notable award.”
The Jackson, Miss., native, formed an all-female jazz group called Past, Present & Future, which included Cassandra Wilson, Rhonda Richmond and Yvonne Evers. She currently leads the gospel group Nellie Mack and Soft Winds as well as the jazz, blues and R&B group The Nellie Mack Project.
Established in 1988, Governor’s Arts Awards are given to individuals and organizations to recognize outstanding work in the artistic disciplines as well as arts-based community development and arts patronage in Mississippi.
“It is such a prestigious award and I have been pinching myself to see if it’s all real. Someone thought enough of my talent to nominate me for this award and I am beyond honored,” she said.
In February, the presentation of the 33rd Governor’s Arts Awards was aired on Mississippi Public Broadcasting TV, MPB Think Radio and portions of the ceremony were available via digital media.
“In my speech, I told the younger players to practice, research and pray so their struggles won’t be as hard as mine,” McInnis said. “Always be diligent and willing to suffer through to pay your dues. We all have to go through to get to success.”
She continued, “Everyone is not meant to be at the top of the pyramid but as long as they are happy, they will be alright. Do what you love, love what you do and keep the higher with you at all times.”
The awards are presented in partnership with the Governor’s office and signify the important relationship between government and the arts.
The 2021 recipients and awards are as follows:
Nellie McInnis – Excellence in Music
Arthur Jafa – Excellence in Media Arts
Raphael Semmes – Cultural Ambassador
Tutwiler Quilters – Arts in Community
Jesmyn Ward – Excellence in Literature
Benjamin Wright – Lifetime Achievement