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USM Alumnus is Finalist for Grammy Award

Tue, 12/22/2020 - 04:49pm | By: David Tisdale

Dr. Jeffrey Murdock

After seeing how racial injustice and socio-economic barriers undermine the development of young musical talent, University of Southern Mississippi alumnus Dr. Jeffrey Murdock has committed himself to knocking them down.

And for that work in making a positive change in the lives of young people who, with access to resources and mentorship could go on to win a Grammy, Dr. Murdock is himself a finalist for the award.

A member of the University of Arkansas Department of Music faculty, Dr. Jeffrey Murdock was nominated for the 2021 Grammy Music Educator Award by two of his students. The award recognizes current educators who have made a significant and lasting contribution to the field of music education and who demonstrate a commitment to the broader cause of maintaining music education in the schools. Every year, approximately 2,000 teachers are nominated for the honor.

Grammy Award winners are set to be announced at the 63rd GRAMMY Awards and Premier Ceremony Jan. 31.

A native of Biloxi, Miss., Dr. Murdock is one of only 10 candidates for the award. He has worked as an educator for 16 years, six of those at the University of Arkansas, where he is the 2016 Connor Endowed Faculty Fellow in the Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences and is conductor of the University’s Inspirational Chorale. He is an internationally recognized conductor, clinician and adjudicator, and his areas of research expertise include cultural hegemony in choral music education, social justice in music education, culturally responsive pedagogy in music education, and music in urban schools.

“It’s so nice to be recognized for the things I do for students, and for essentially living my passion,” Dr. Murdock said of being a Grammy Award nominee. “It is, indeed, an honor, and little bit surreal.”

Dr. Murdock began his career as an educator in the Memphis/Shelby County schools, and it was there where his eyes were opened to the disparities in access to quality music education across the city, including geographic, economic and racial factors. “That experience made me become passionate about leveling the playing field, thereby eliminating cultural hegemony in music education.”

More than a one-man crusade, Dr. Murdock is training other educators, including within his department at the University of Arkansas, sharing his experiences and expertise in how to make music education equitable through training and mentoring colleagues in the field. “This way, my passions and my approach to education can be instilled into the teachers of tomorrow, reshaping the landscape of music education for future generations.” he said.

Dr. Murdock said choosing USM for his undergraduate and master’s degree programs was a “no-brainer” because of its high-quality choral music program and proximity to home. While a student at the University, he was a member of the Kappa Iota Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., a Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Scholar, and conducted the African American Student Organization’s (AASO) gospel choir.

He praised the USM School of Music faculty, including Drs. Kimberley Davis and Greg Fuller, for being particularly instrumental in his success as a teacher. “They continue to this day to be invaluable resources for me,” he said.

“Dr. Murdock’s recognition as a finalist by the Recording Academy is a source of pride for all of us here at Southern Miss,” said Dr. Chris Winstead, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “From our vantage point, we often see our alumni having a powerful impact in their fields. However, recognition at this level, and for such important work, deserves to be celebrated. We’re extremely proud to have played a role in Dr. Murdock’s journey.”

For information about the USM College of Arts and Sciences’ School of Music, visit