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March Officially Named Mississippi Musicians Month

Wed, 03/20/2024 - 12:53pm | By: Mike Lopinto

Dr. Jay Dean

A bill designating the month of March as Mississippi Musicians Month became law on March 20, 2024, after swift passage through the Mississippi Legislature. Spearheaded by Dr. Jay Dean and the Hattiesburg Concert Association, the bill was championed by State Rep. Missy McGee of Hattiesburg, Miss.

Mississippi’s musicians occupy a special place in the world of music. From writers to performers, Mississippi’s musicians have created a global impact both historically and working everywhere form jook joints to symphony orchestras today. Now, each year, will bring a springtime celebration of the state’s musical heritage.

“Great and timeless music is one of Mississippi’s chief exports,” said Dean. “This is why we dedicate March as a statewide celebration of Mississippi’s musicians and invite every Mississippi community to join in this celebration by presenting musical performances of any and all types throughout the month each and every March.”

The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) School of Music has played an integral role in the life of so many musicians not only in Mississippi, but around the globe. From educators to performers, they have found their way into the fabric of our culture. In Hattiesburg alone, the School of Music presents more than 200 events and performances annually.

Mississippi has a rich and vibrant musical heritage that has shaped the soundscape of the nation. From the Delta blues to gospel and jazz, the state has produced a remarkable array of talented musicians who have influenced countless genres and left an indelible mark on the world of music.

Earlier this month, the USM band program celebrated the start of Mississippi Musicians’ Month by presenting an award to one of the chief promoters of musicians statewide, Southern Miss alum Dr. James (Jim) Brewer. Founder of the Mississippi Musician’s Hall of Fame and the phrase “The Birthplace of America’s Music,” Brewer was presented a commemorative plaque from the School of Music by Dr. Chris Winstead, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and a proclamation from the City of Hattiesburg by Mayor Toby Barker.

The origins of Mississippi's music can be traced back to the state's diverse cultural influences, including African rhythms, European folk traditions, and Native American melodies. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Delta region became a crucible for the development of the blues, a genre characterized by its raw emotion, haunting melodies, and expressive lyrics. 

The Delta blues was not only a musical form but also a powerful expression of the African American experience, reflecting the hardships, struggles, and resilience of the community.

The music resonated with audiences far beyond the borders of Mississippi, reaching national and international acclaim.

In addition to the blues, Mississippi also played a pivotal role in the development of gospel music. The state's strong religious traditions and vibrant church culture gave rise to powerful gospel choirs and talented soloists. The gospel tradition provided a foundation for the soul music revolution of the 1960s and beyond. The state also played a significant role in the evolution of styles from country and pop to jazz and Classical music.

The rich cultural heritage, diverse influences, and powerful storytelling embedded in the state's musical traditions continue to resonate with audiences worldwide. Mississippi's music reflects the triumphs and struggles of its people and offers a profound glimpse into the human experience. The legacy of Mississippi's musicians serves as a testament to the enduring power of music as a means of expression and connection.