The jazz studies program at USM has been in existence for over 50 years. Its ensembles
include two big bands, and four to five combos of various shapes and sizes including
the award winning Southern Miss Jazz Jazztet. Among the notable guest artists who
have performed with the Jazz Lab Band I are Ellis Marsalis, Jeff Coffin, Jovino Santos
Neto, Gregory Tardy and many more.
What Will I Learn?
The program’s course offerings help students develop a foundation in improvisation,
theory, arranging, and history. All of the jazz performing groups and most of the
jazz core courses offered are open to non-jazz majors with the instructor’s permission.
Jazz at Southern Miss has had a long and illustrious history and the dedication and
hard work of faculty members and talented students, former and current, has helped
the jazz program at Southern Miss to be among the best in the Southeast.
Its ensembles include two big bands, and four to five combos of various shapes and
sizes including the award winning Southern Miss Jazz Jazztet. We welcome all participants,
especially in Improvisation classes. We have had violinists, French horn players,
vocalists, and cellists as well as the traditional brass, reeds, and rhythm players,
and the curriculum is designed to take students new to improvising and start them
on their own personal journey of musical exploration. We invite you to come join in
the action and discover for yourself this great art form called jazz!
This is just a sample of some of our alumni and their accomplishments.
Steve Wiest (BM Music Education – USM, MM Jazz Studies - UNT) is an outstanding jazz trombonist
and composer as well as a renowned jazz educator. Wiest went on to tour with Maynard
Fergusen and earned his Master of Music degree at UNT. He directed the jazz activities
at the UW-Whitewater before winning the top post at UNT. He has since moved on to
the Lamont School of Music at the University of Denver where he co-chairs the jazz
program. He's got several Grammy Nominated albums and his latest work is with his
all-star horn band Vinyl Hampdin.
Tom Luer (BME – UW Eau Claire, MM Saxophone Performance - USM) teaches at Cal Poly - Pomona
and performs regularly with LA’s best in the Gordon Goodwin Big Phat Big Band, the
Mike Barone Big Band as well as being active as a studio session player for recordings
and television. He recently recorded his first album as a leader with his group Project
Popular with some of his LA colleagues in addition to teaching. He toured with Queen
Latifah on her “Travelin’ Light” concert tour.
Alexander Pershounin (MM Performance, DMA Performance) was appointed as the full-time instructor of bass
at the UNI. He was professor of bass and jazz ensembles in Schwobb School of Music
at CSU in Georgia and served as an assistant professor of bass at MSU-Moorhead. He
came to Southern Miss from Moscow, USSR where he performed with Anatoly Kroll and
performed at many international jazz festivals. Alex was one of the founding members
of the USM Jazz Sextet.
Darrien Douglas (BS Business - USM) went to New Orleans after finishing at Southern Miss and was
performing regularly with the patriarch of the Marsalis family, Ellis Marsalis, and
his sons Delfeayo and Jason Marsalis. At USM he performed drumset in the Jazztet as
well as Jazz Lab Band I. He resides in NYC where he is both a leader and sideman performing
with his group, “The Session.” His credits include Wynton Marsalis, Victor Goines,
Jazzmeia Horn, Brianna Thomas, Germaine Bazzle, Jessie McBride, Bob Cranshaw, Bria
Skonberg, the late Ellis Marsalis and more. He also serves as the Executive Director
of Second Line Arts Collective, a non-profit creating arts education programs enabling
young artist to thrive our modern economy.
Scott Johnson (BM Jazz Studies, BME - USM) is a New Orleans based saxophonist, bandleader and educator
making regular appearances with Delfeayo Marsalis and the Uptown Jazz Orchestra as
well as being an in demand performer in other notable groups. He was the recipient
of the Presser Award chosen by the Southern Miss School of Music faculty in his junior
year and 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 artist educator who
remains active playing in groups throughout the region.
Russell Welch (BM, Jazz Studies) has settled into the New Orleans trad jazz and gypsy jazz scene
as a member of Meschiya Lake and the Little Big Horns, and his own Hot Club of France/Django
Reinhardt inspired group Showarama Hot Jazz. He toured the UK with the Lake group
to rave reviews as well as toured and performed in some of the same clubs Django Reinhardt
frequented. He has released several albums as a leader.
No. The audition for jazz lab bands and combos is at the beginning of the semester
during the first week of classes. You can contact Mr. Lawrence Panella at lawrence.panellaFREEMississippi for information on times and dates.
Jazz scholarships are available through the department of bands for those students
accepted into the jazz studies program and, a request for scholarship would be submitted
by Mr. Lawrence Panella pending completion of an audition. Non-jazz majors should
audition for their respective applied instructor for a scholarship also issued through
the department of bands. Non-music majors interested in some sort of music scholarship
should contact the department of bands for information on non-major scholarships.
Yes. Most jazz core classes and ensembles are open to non-jazz and non-music majors
pending approval of Mr. Lawrence Panella who will assess your skill level to determine
which classes would best suit your abilities.
Yes. Many of our students involved in jazz lab bands also play in other large ensembles
or chamber ensembles.
Yes. A four-semester sequence of jazz improvisation is offered and open to non-jazz
majors on any instrument including orchestral instruments and voice. MUS 367 Improvisation
I is designed for people who have never improvised before and can help you get started
on your creative journey and is offered every Fall semester.