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Released January 19, 2005


HATTIESBURG -- The next season concert for The University of Southern Mississippi Symphony Orchestra at will feature three winners of the William T. Gower Awards Competition Jan. 27 in Bennett Auditorium. Showcasing the exceptional talent of the School of Music, this annual concert has become an audience favorite.

As an added bonus to the evening's program, the Southern Chorale will give a preview of their upcoming performance at the national convention of the American Choral Directors Association in Los Angeles, Calif., Feb. 2-5. Under the direction of Dr. Gregory Fuller, the choir garnered an invitation from this prestigious organization to perform before thousands of convention attendees-all choral directors and students of singing.

For the first time since the inception of the competition, this year's winners of the Gower Awards are all vocalists, including Patricia Ramírez of Honduras, Allanda Small of Albany, N.Y., and Rocio Taméz of Monterrey, Mexico. Honorable mentions were given to pianist Mary Chung, violinist Jorge Orozco, and vocalist Robert Bradley.

Ongoing for more than 21 years, the competition was renamed three years ago in honor of William T. Gower, former professor of music at Southern Miss and a widely respected woodwind musician. Gower, who passed away in July 2003, was an inspiration to many budding musicians through his multitude of career performances at music conventions, high schools, colleges, and universities-often performing on a variety of instruments.

The competition is highly competitive within the ranks of the School of Music and quite rigorous. More than 40 voice, piano and strings students auditioned in November 2004 before a panel of judges from outside the university.

"These very talented students will be our stars of tomorrow," said Dr. Jay Dean, music director of the Symphony Orchestra. "Later in life, we will be able to say that we knew them when they were students here at Southern Miss."

Under the baton of conductor Juan Carlos Peña, the orchestra will open its 7:30 p.m. concert with Beethoven's "Leonore Overture No. 3." Following the opening work and then again after intermission, the three competition winners will perform the music that earned them distinction among their peers.

Taméz, a master's student in vocal performance in the studio of Dr. Maryann Kyle, will perform Rossini's "Cruda sorte!" from "L'Italiana in Algeri" and Verdi's "Stride la vampa" from "Il Trovatore." A versatile artist, she earned an undergraduate degree in violin and is a member of the Symphony Orchestra at Southern Miss.

As a singer, Taméz has performed as a soloist with the Southern Chorale, Southern Chambers Singers, Vittoria Vocal Ensemble, Youth Symphony Orchestra of Monterrey, and the orchestra. In the upcoming Southern Opera and Musical Theatre production of "Susannah," she will perform the role of Mrs. Ott.

Performing Korngold's "Marietta's Song" from "Die Tote Stadt" and Puccini's "in quelle trini morbide" from "Manon Lescaut" on the concert program, Small also studies in Kyle's studio. She is pursuing a doctorate of musical arts in vocal performance and pedagogy and serves as a graduate teaching assistant in voice.

Earning her undergraduate degree at William Carey College and a master's in music from Southern Miss, she has appeared locally in Southern Opera and Musical Theatre productions of "The Tender Land" and "The Marriage of Figaro."

Ramírez is a master's student in voice and choral conducting under the direction of Kyle and Fuller. She earned a degree in vocal performance at Southeastern Louisiana University, where she performed as a soloist in many productions.

She has been a three-time finalist and winner of the National Teachers of Singing Competition and will appear as Mrs. McClean in the upcoming "Susannah." For the awards concert, Ramírez will perform Gounod's "Faites-lui mes aveux" from "Faust" and Donizetti's "O mio Fernando" from "La Favorita."

"I'm very fortunate to have these three singers in my studio," Kyle said. "This is one of the strongest classes of graduate singers that we have seen in the School of Music in recent years. Not only are they gifted vocally, they have wonderful musical instincts and the ability to communicate their music in such a way as to touch the hearts of their audiences."

After the student performances, Dr. Greg Lassen, vice president for business and finance at Southern Miss, will officiate the awards ceremony.

Peña, a native of Honduras, began his musical studies at the Victoriano Lopez School of Music. He holds a bachelor of music from the prestigious Curtis Institute of Music, a master's in double bass from Rice University, and a master's in orchestral directing from the University of Maryland. At Southern Miss, Peña serves as visiting assistant professor of double bass and music theory and is assistant conductor of the Symphony Orchestra.

"Juan is an exceptional conductor and an asset to the orchestra," Dean said. "The orchestra has a chance to work with a different conductor and (the School of Music) can showcase one of our outstanding faculty members."

The orchestra will open the second half of the concert with Bizet's Suite No. 1 from "Carmen."

The Symphony Orchestra's 2004-05 season is sponsored by BancorpSouth. Tickets for the 7:30 p.m. concert are $18/$16/$14 and may be purchased at the Southern Miss Ticket Office by calling (601) 266-5418 or 800-844-8425. Tickets may be ordered online at


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February 24, 2005 2:28 PM