Jazz Alumni News

This is just a sample of some of our alumni and their accomplishments.


Steve Wiest (BM Music Education) was appointed director of the famed 1 O’Clock Lab Band at the University of North Texas. Wiest who grew up in Hattiesburg and performed in the Southern Miss Jazz Lab Band 1 under Raoul Jerome (retired) went on to tour with Maynard Fergusen and earned his Master of Music degree at UNT. He spent time directing the jazz activities at the University of Wisconsin, Whitewater before winning the post at UNT.


Tom Luer (MM Performance) performs regularly with the Gordon Goodwin Big Phat Big Band and the Mike Barone Big Band in Los Angeles. He recently recorded his first album as a leader with his group Project Popular and currently resides in Los Angeles and is active performing, recording, and teaching adjunct at Cal Poly Pomona. He also toured with Queen Latifah on her jazz oriented “Travelin’ Light” concert tour. Luer is one of the founding members of the USM Jazz Sextet and went on from USM to the University of North Texas where he performed as a member of the 1 O’Clock Lab Band.


Alexander Pershounin (MM Performance, DMA Performance) is professor of bass and directs the jazz ensembles in the Schwob School of Music at Columbus State University in Columbus, Georgia. Prior to his appointment there, He was an assistant professor of bass at Minnesota State University Moorhead. He came to Southern Miss from Moscow, USSR where he performed with Anatoly Kroll’s MKC Big Band and performed at many international jazz festivals. Alex was one of the founding members of the USM Jazz Sextet.  He continues a very active performing schedule and is in demand as a performer in both jazz and classical settings.


Darrien Douglas (BS Business) is performing regularly with not only the patriarch of the Marsalis family, Ellis Marsalis, but also with his sons Delfeayo and Jason Marsalis. During his time at Southern he performed drumset in the Jazztet as well as Jazz Lab Band I and was one of the busiest performers in the program. He is releasing his first album as a leader with his group, “The Session.”


Mark Dehertogh (BM Jazz Studies) went on to the University of North Texas where he worked his way up into the famed 1 O’Clock Lab Band recording and performing under the direction of Southern Miss alum, Steve Wiest who was appointed to the director’s chair in 2009. Mark was active performing in the Dallas area up until his recent move to Washington, D.C.


Paul Garcia (DMA Conducting) is the Director of Bands at North Carolina State University and is active as a marching band, wind band, and jazz clinician/adjudicator throughout the region. In addition, he is also an active percussionist and drum set artist throughout the United States, and holds endorsements from Vic Firth and Sabian. His professional credits include recording with United Brass and performing with entertainers such as Ellis Marsalis, Delfeayo Marsalis, Jim Walker, Dave Pietro, Joan Rivers, Don Rickles, and Bob Newhart.


Wes Parker (MM, DMA, Trombone Performance) joined the faculty at North Carolina State University in 2006 as the Director of Jazz Studies. He directs the jazz ensembles, coaches jazz combos, teaches jazz history, and serves as the assistant director of the “Power Sound of The South Marching Band.”


Scott Johnson (BM, Jazz Studies, BME) recently renewed his appointment as the director of bands at Hattiesburg High School. Scott was the recipient of the Presser Award chosen by the Southern Miss School of Music faculty in his junior year. He was a member of the Southern Miss Jazztet and Jazz Lab band 1 performing both the lead alto chair and jazz tenor chair. He is a dedicated educator who remains active as a performer playing in groups from Jackson to the Gulf Coast and sitting in with some of the groups that come through Hattiesburg on tour.


Chris Parkin (MM, Saxophone) went on to serve as an adjunct at Whitworth University and Gonzaga University teaching saxophone and jazz classes. He is active performing in the Spokane area including working with the Spokane Jazz Orchestra, the nations oldest community supported jazz orchestra.


Sethapong Art Ruangtip (MM, Trombone) is working as a band director in the Garland Texas Independent School District at Sachse High School and performs in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. He also co-leads his own big band in Dallas featuring some of the best musicians in the area.


Christina (Whitworth) Catalanotto – was a founding member of the award winning Southern Miss Jazz Sextet, now called the Jazztet. Tina eventually left Southern Miss for New Orleans to study with Johnny Vidacovich. She has since joined the Navy Band in Washington, D.C., and performs with their country band Country Currents.


Frank Pesci (BM Jazz Studies) is active composing choral and sacred works and overseeing the work of two fine arts organizations in the Boston area serving as the Executive Director of the New Hampshire Music Festival www.nhmf.org and as the Associate Artistic Director of Boston Opera Collaborative www.bostonoperacollaborative.org His composition work includes songs, choral works, operatic pieces, and instrumental works and can be heard at www.frankpesci.com


Russell Welch (BM, Jazz Studies) has settled into the New Orleans traditional jazz scene as a member of Meschiya Lake and the Little Big Horns, and his own Hot Club of France/Django Reinhardt inspired Showarama Hot Jazz. He recently toured the UK with the Lake group to rave reviews. You can check out his work on these websites. For Meschiya Lake go to: www.meschiya.com.


Bryan Hooten (BM, Jazz Studies) is tearing up the music scene in Richmond, Virginia with his trombone playing in an eclectic mix of musical situations from the Salsa music group, Bio Ritmo, to genre bending groups like Ombak and Fight the Big Bull, and the New Orleans inspired brass band, NO BS Brass!. He recently released his first solo CD entitled Richmond Love Call featuring improvisations for solo trombone to critical acclaim. In addition to his performing work, he teaches adjunct at Virginia Commonwealth University directing jazz groups of various sizes, teaching composition and theory as well. http://bryanhooten.com/


Tom Brantley (BM, Jazz Studies and Trombone Performance, MM, UNT) is an associate professor of music at the University of South Florida and is in demand as a Yamaha clinician, solo and recording artist. He has toured the world with the acclaimed group, Rhythm and Brass who have released several CD’s as well as chamber music materials. In addition, he performs with the USF Faculty Brass, Faculty Jazz group and Chuck Owen’s  Jazz SURGE. He recently released a solo CD entitled, Obsessed with Treasure. Brantley is also active as the news editor for the International Trombone Association. He performed in Jazz Lab Band 1 under the baton of professor Raoul Jerome during his tenure at Southern Miss. http://www.rhythmandbrass.com/Rhythm_%26_Brass/Rhythm_%26_Brass.html