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USM Student Julianna Hinton Wins Presser Undergraduate Scholar Award

Mon, 04/12/2021 - 09:57am | By: Mike Lopinto

Julianna HintonJulianna Hinton, a junior music major at The University of Southern Mississippi (USM), has been named the 2021 Presser Undergraduate Scholar. Selected by the music faculty guided solely by consideration of excellence and merit, the scholarship is an honor award and the student, in his/her senior year, is to be known as a Presser Scholar. The award includes a generous stipend to aid in continuing musical studies.

The Presser Foundation was established in 1939 under the Deeds of Trust and Will of the late Theodore Presser. It is one of the few private foundations in the United States dedicated solely to music education and music philanthropy.

Presser (1848 – 1925) rose from humble beginnings to become a respected music teacher and publisher. Familiar with the many challenges facing musicians, he established The Presser Foundation which supports music performance and education through undergraduate and graduate scholar awards, operating and program support for music organizations, capital grants for music building projects, and assistance to retired music teachers.

“Julianna epitomizes what the Southern Miss School of Music is all about. She is an artist. She is a scholar. She is an educator;” said Dr. Ben McIlwain, Associate Professor of Trombone, Performing Artist, S.E. Shires Trombones. “Without a doubt, she is most deserving of the Presser Award. I could not be happier for her.”

Dr. Ellen Elder, Associate Professor of Piano, agreed noting, “Julianna is an incredible young woman, who is determined, conscientious, and serious about her studies and musical pursuits. It takes a very talented student to be able to double major in two instruments. On top of all of this, she has an outstanding academic record, with a 4.0 GPA, and is also pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree. With all of her academic and musical accomplishments, she truly exemplifies all of the qualities of a Theodore Presser Scholar, and I am honored to have the opportunity to work with her.”

Hinton moved to Hattiesburg at age 3 and attended school in Oak Grove K-12. She began piano at age 7 studying with Susan Fairchild. She began trombone at age 11 with notable instructors including Dr. Jonathan Helmick, Helen Echazabal Rettger, Daniel Johnson, Paul Harrison, and Roger Bobo.

“Sharon Laird, the faculty of the Oak Grove Bands, and the directors of the Mississippi Lions All-State Band shaped my musical growth immensely during my marching and concert band years,” said Hinton. “Dr. Ben McIlwain, Dr. Ellen Elder, and Dr. Danny Beard are my current advisors and mentors at Southern Miss.” 

As a Hattiesburg native, Hinton spent her pre-college years attending piano festivals, trombone events, drum major camps, and All-South band clinics on the USM campus. She ultimately chose USM because of the connections with music faculty, specifically Dr. Ben McIlwain and Dr. Ellen Elder; the scholarship and study abroad opportunities; and the individualized instruction.

She also knew the School of Music provided multiple ensembles and opportunities for students to showcase their talents and to find their niche in a welcoming environment of academics and musicians from diverse backgrounds.

“My teachers share a passion for helping students mold their lives through music,” said Hinton. “Their work given my multiple degree plans has required extra time, collaboration, and advocacy on my behalf, and they have remained committed to tailoring my studies and ensuring an enriching, challenging educational experience. On my best and worst days, through successes and failures, they have offered their encouragement.”

She also lauded her Bachelor of Arts advisor, Dr. Danny Beard, for his guidance and instruction; Dr. Michael Miles for several semesters of symphony performances under his direction; and the piano, brass, and academic faculty who have helped her in her collegiate journey.

“My remaining time at Southern Miss will continue to be inspired by my father, who died a few months ago, and my late grandmother and grandfather, who died as I embarked on my college career,” she noted. “I extend my deepest gratitude to my mom and to my surviving family stateside and in Hungary for their continuous love and support.”

Hinton is making plans to continue her education with a master’s and doctorate though she has not yet finalized her program of choice.

For more information about the School of Music, visit