About University Bands

The University of Southern Mississippi Band Program had its inception in 1920 with the founding of the first aggregation of winds, mainly a brass ensemble for students who were training as teachers. Its current enrollment of approximately 300 students includes members from every possible area of study in the university. While it is primarily housed in the School of Music, the Band Program truly is the University’s program. 

There are four segments of the program that include The “Pride of Mississippi” Marching Band with an enrollment of 300 students, the Wind Ensemble, the Symphonic Winds and the Concert Band. Each of these organizations, while having its own distinct history, stem from the success of the Marching Band that began in the 1950s with the hiring of Dr. Raymond Mannoni. Dr. Mannoni built the School of Music through the Band Program. His vision provided exposure for the University that was unheard of at the time through establishing close ties with the Senior Bowl in Mobile and the Blue and Gray Game in Montgomery. Both of these gave national exposure to the University and the School of Music at a time when it was simply a small teachers college in South Mississippi.

These appearances began a long history of attracting students from throughout the United States. While national television viewing is limited in today’s environment, the “Pride of Mississippi” continued its tradition with an appearance at the most televised parade in the world, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City. Internationally the marching band and its counterpart, the Dixie Darlings, have performed for the Dublin St. Patrick’s Day Parade, the London New Year’s Day Parade and the Edinburgh Scotland Easter Celebration Parade. All of these were televised internationally. The Band Program, therefore, has enjoyed the single distinction of more national and international television appearances than any other band program in the United States. 

Dr. Mannoni’s appointment as chair of the Department of Music, and later as dean of the College of the Arts, led to the tenure of only seven directors of the Band Program in 60 years: William J. Moody, Alan Drake, Raymond G. Young, Joe Barry Mullins, Ike Nail, Thomas V. Fraschillo and Catherine A. Rand. Therefore, the history and success of the School follows the same of the above individuals and their leadership. After the initial successes of the Marching Band, the concert ensembles began to develop to be what are known today as leaders in the profession nationwide. William J. Moody began with the Wind Ensemble’s first performance at the College Band Directors National Association Convention in Gainesville, Fla., in 1966. Subsequently, the Wind Ensemble performed for another of these conventions during the tenure of Joe Barry Mullins. The surge of national and international notoriety, however, came with Thomas V. Fraschillo’s leading the Wind Ensemble to three national performances for the College Band Directors National Association and two for the American Bandmasters Association. These performances have brought numbers of graduate students to the School of Music for study and continue to be lauded by the profession at large.

Aside from the Wind Ensemble’s performances at national conventions, it has been widely acclaimed in Europe, namely in Italy for its performances during a 10-day tour in 2000 with the Italian Army Band based in Rome. It is notable that the Italian Army Band provided all logistics for the tour, therefore recognizing the credibility of the performance level of the ensemble and the students in the School of Music. 

Each of the Band Program’s concert ensembles has its place in the education of our music majors; however, the ensembles have also provided an outlet for students throughout the University during both the first and second semesters. Just as the Marching Band provides a service for football experiences, these other ensembles provide academic, recruitment and community services. The Wind Ensemble and the Symphonic Winds have performed for the Mississippi Bandmasters Association state convention five times. All of the groups have provided enhancement to community projects that include numerous appearances for various citywide events.

The University Band Program provides an international experience for its students in Europe and Australia. In Italy, a yearly program of study for selected students occurs in Rome with Maestro Fulvio Creux, Italy’s most important conductor of bands. Students are given the opportunity to perform with Italian professional musicians and interact with students who are studying in conservatories of music. In Australia, students have been the guests of Melbourne University and its brass department and have enjoyed study with internationally acclaimed brass performer Barry Tuckwell. 

The University Band Program has provided teachers for the public schools for decades since Dr. Mannoni’s establishment of a creditable Music Education Program. In the last 25 years, with Dr. Fraschillo’s leadership, the Band Program has attracted and placed doctoral students throughout the United States: Dr. Paul Garcia, director of bands, North Carolina State University; Dr. Brad Snow, associate director of bands, Oklahoma State University; Dr. Eric Harris, associate director of bands at Tennessee Tech University; Dr. David Romines, associate director, The University of Georgia; Dr. Curtis Tredway, associate director of bands, The University of Texas, El Paso; Dr. Brian Taylor, The University of Louisiana at Lafayette; Dr. Derle Long, The University of Louisiana at Monroe; Dr. Jeff Mathews, associate director of bands, Northwestern State University, Natchitoches, La.; Dr. Carson Vermillion, associate director of bands, University of Northern Arizona, Flagstaff; Dr. Gerald Waguespack, The University of Louisiana at Lafayette; Dr. Dawn Perry, director of bands, Wingate University, N.C.; Dr. Paxton Gurtman, Texas State University, Houston, Texas; Dr. Christian Zembower, director of bands, East Tennessee State University; Dr. John Stoube, executive director of the the Kentucky Music Educators Association; and numerous others who are teaching with either doctorates or ABD credentials in the public schools. Presently there are four doctoral students enrolled in the School of Music with an emphasis in conducting.

As a Mississippi product, the Wind Ensemble has been featured on numerous radio broadcasts from Public Radio Mississippi and has been the only Mississippi group that can boast of having been aired nationally on Public Radio International’s “Performance Today.” CD’s are produced annually to feature the bands’ musicians and are provided to recruits and Mississippi band programs as a service. 

Upon Dr. Fraschillo's retirement in 2012, Dr. Catherine Rand took the helm as director of bands and started a new chapter for Southern Miss Bands.

Finally, University Bands has brought two conventions to the State of Mississippi: The College Bandmasters National Association and the American Bandmasters Association. These took place in Gulfport and brought conductors and students from throughout the United States to a state that is rarely seen or visited by any of these professionals.

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