About Southern Opera and Musical Theatre

In 1948, longtime Chairman of the Music Department Frank Earl Marsh was sitting in his office, musing over the day’s happenings, when suddenly he was struck with a revelation: there was a key component missing from the music program! While the choral and studio tracks were thriving, Marsh saw a need for a high quality performance program that simultaneously would attract and showcase instrumental and vocal talent. He jumped from his chair, phoned director Lloyd Patten, and immediately, they began to plan. That same season, they staged and produced Bedřich Smetana’s comic opera The Bartered Bride with a full orchestra and vocal soloists. Thus was born the Southern Opera and Musical Theatre Company.

Since then the program has accrued a reputation as one of the finest opera and musical theatre collegiate companies in the region, and it now holds a recognized place alongside other major schools of music throughout the nation. The Southern Opera and Musical Theatre Company attracts a range of diverse and dazzling performers, and presents professional quality productions for the community.

Southern Opera and Musical Theatre Company regularly offers students opportunities to perform in opera and musical theatre productions, as well as recitals and concerts. Recent and current fully staged productions have included Sweeney Todd, West Side Story, Mary Poppins, Carmen, The Mikado, and Rigoletto.  Students in this program also have the opportunity to become apprentice artists with the Mississippi Opera, the ninth oldest continuously operating opera company in the United States. ‘

Major vocal artists are frequently featured with the orchestra and/or opera, including (among others) Thomas Palmer (1972), Roberta Peters (1977), Denyce Graves (1998), Plácido Domingo (2005), David Lomeli (2009), Renee Fleming (2010), Deborah Voigt (2015), Linda Eder (2015), Kirstin Chavez (2016), and Sandi Patty (2016).

With an exemplary administrative team, an exquisite student orchestra, professional conductors and stage directors, and talented vocal artists, Marsh’s vision has bloomed into an integral and treasured part of the music tradition here at Southern Miss.


We welcome you to our program!


At a glance:

  • A 41-member music faculty of dedicated teacher-artists

  • Professional voice teachers and stage directors

  • An active opera program producing multiple fully staged productions each year

  • Frequent master classes and performances by musicians of international stature

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