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Peyton Sills Wins Presser Undergraduate Scholar Award

Wed, 04/13/2022 - 01:14pm | By: Mike Lopinto

Peyton SillsPeyton Sills, a junior music education major at The University of Southern Mississippi (USM), was recently named the 2022 Presser Undergraduate Scholar. Selected by the music faculty guided solely by consideration of excellence and merit, this award 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.

Theodore 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.

“Peyton has distinguished himself as a musical and academic leader amongst his peers since his arrival on campus. He is an incredibly dedicated student in the classroom and on the stage,” said Dr. Colin McKenzie, director of the School of Music. “Peyton comes from a family of music educators, and I couldn’t be more excited to see the impact that he is going to have on our profession. I continue to brim with pride at the work he does and the way he represents The University of Southern Mississippi School of Music.”

With both parents being music educators, Sills was quite literally raised in the band hall.  When the time came to him to join the band, the euphonium was the easiest choice because of being introduced to the recordings of Raymond G. Young, a world-renowned euphonium soloist and a pioneer of the USM Tuba/Euphonium studio.

His beginner band teacher was his mom, Jennifer Sills, and he began to take privately with Zachary Harris and Dee Dee Pitts in the Gulfport School District. After moving to Madison Central Schools in 2014, he studied with Chuck Reynolds. During this time, he blossomed as a young musician winning some of the most prestigious student level competitions such as the Leonard Falcone Euphonium and Tuba Competition and “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band’s Concerto Competition. 

“Peyton has been a musical leader in my studio since he arrived on campus,” said Dr. Richard Perry, professor of tuba and euphonium. “He plays with a confidence and maturity that’s rare in an undergraduate student and continues to find ways to challenge himself technically and musically.”

After taking several lessons with Dr. Richard Perry, Sills knew that The University of Southern Mississippi was the best choice for his undergraduate degree. 

“Dr. Perry’s commitment to bringing out the best in his students is evident based on the success that comes out of his studio year after year,” said Sills.

He enjoys the variety of musical opportunities at USM in which he not only performs as an individual, but also with high-caliber ensembles such as the Tuba/Euphonium Octet and the Wind Ensemble. Scholastically, Sills has taken advantage of creative project and research grants as well as membership in honor societies that are offered on campus.

He also lauded his Music Education advisor, Dr. Melody Causby,

“Dr. Causby has been extremely helpful to me in the process of training to become a music educator,” Sills noted. “Through my time in her program, I have become a better musician and a thoughtful leader.” 

Sills is making plans to continue his education with a graduate degree though he has not yet finalized his institution of choice.

For more information about the School of Music, visit