Music Dept. News

Spotlight on Alumni: Dr. Renardo Murray

May 9th, 2019 by jsumusic

An accomplished band director and music educator, Dr. Renardo Murray ('04, MME) holds an outstanding track record in assuring student success both musically and academically. He has an extensive background of developing, operating, and maintaining quality band programs. Dr. Murray served Jackson State University first as assistant band director from 2004 to 2009, and then as interim director of bands/instructor of music since 2009. He has also served as band director at the secondary education level: for Yazoo City High School, Yazoo City, Mississippi; Blackburn Middle School, Jackson, Mississippi; Clinton High School, Clinton, Louisiana; and as assistant band director for Wilkinson County High School, Woodville, Mississippi.

Murray earned his doctorate degree in music education in 2011 from the University of Mississippi, a master’s degree in music education from Jackson State University in 2004 and his bachelor’s – also in music education – from Alcorn State University in 1995.

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Spotlight on Alumni: Dr. Alona Alexander

February 8th, 2019 by jsumusic

Dr. Alona Alexander ('13, MME) is Director of Choral Activities and Professor of Music at Alcorn State University where she conducts the ASU Chamber Singers, Concert Choir, and Women’s Choir. She also teaches courses in music education, piano, music literature, and voice in addition to serving as one of three departmental accompanists.

Prior to teaching on the collegiate level, Dr. Alexander led the middle school chorus of Bolton-Edwards Elementary/ Middle School to their first ever choral music superior rating in school history. Also at Raymond High School, Alexander consistently received superior ratings on the district and state level, as well as Best Choir overall at Music in the Parks festival.

Dr. Alexander is an active member of American Choral Directors Association. As a choral music education presenter, Alexander has presented on several choral music education topics at multiple Music Educator Conferences held at the likes of The University of Mississippi, University of Southern Mississippi, and Missouri Music Educators National Conference. Dr. Alexander also serves as an adjudicator for choral festivals and the Mississippi ACDA all state honor choir auditions.

Dr. Alexander earned the Doctor of Philosophy in Music from The University of Mississippi. She received her Masters in Music Education from Jackson State University and Bachelor of Arts in Music Education/Vocal Performance from Tougaloo College. In addition to conducting and scholarly activities in research, Dr. Alexander is an active pianist and Minister of Music at Mount Helm Baptist Church in Jackson, MS, where she oversees a five-member praise and worship team and gospel choir. Dr. Alexander’s hobbies and affiliations include being a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated, working out, and women’s flag and tackle football in which she plays quarterback and receiver.

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Spotlight on Alumni: Dowell Taylor

May 11th, 2018 by jsumusic

Congratulations to Dowell Taylor who has been selected by the Board of Directors of the National Black College Alumni Hall of Fame Foundation, Inc. Taylor will be inducted in its 2018 Class during the 33rd Annual Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony on Friday, September 28, 2018 in Atlanta, GA.

Taylor is the Interim Director of Bands, Assistant Professor of Music and Director of Music Technology at Jackson State University and is being honored for his exceptional achievements in the field of Arts & Entertainment. He joins a distinguished list of over 300 Hall of Famers who have been enshrined into the Hall of Fame since 1986, including such notables as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Dr. Benjamin E. Mays, Walter Payton, Leontyne Price, Chief Justice Thurgood Marshall, Oprah Winfrey, Ambassador Andrew Young, Will Packard and Nancy Wilson.

The Department of Alumni and Constituency Relations coordinated the submission of applications to the National Black College Alumni Hall of Fame Foundation and cordially congratulates Dowell Taylor for the esteemed honor.

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Spotlight on Alumni: Stephanie K. Sanders

November 9th, 2017 by jsumusic


Stephanie K. Sanders (’92 BME) is a graduate of Jackson State University, University of Houston (Masters), and currently studies at Regent University. She was the Assistant Band Director at Alcorn State University. Ms. Sanders is the Woodwind Instructor, Jazz Band Director, and Associate Band Director at Norfolk State University.






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Spotlight on Alumni: Darryl Reeves

October 18th, 2017 by jsumusic

Hailing from Jackson, MS, Darryl Reeves (’01 BME) is a producer/saxophonist that effortlessly merges the lines between funk, soul & hip-hop, expressed from a platform rooted in bebop. Growing up in a musical family, Reeves attended the Northwestern Performing & Visual Arts Center in Miami. Moved by hip-hop samples originating from bebop, Reeves was led to being influenced by greats such as Charlie Parker and John Coltrane. Reeves studied music at Jackson State University. He subsequently completed his Masters of Music at the University of New Orleans, where he studied with Terence Blanchard and performed on the scene with Delfeayo Marsalis. In 2004, Reeves released the funky and playful Diary of a Bandstand, to ample acclaim. It featured Robert Glasper, Russell Gunn & Quamon Fowler and cemented Reeves’ reputation for presenting a new outlook on the sound, style and production of jazz music. Reeves has kept a steady hand in not being limited to any specific genre. Some know him just as well for his production in hip-hop. Reeves caught Ahmir “?uestlove” Thompson’s and DJ Jazzy Jeff’s attention with his ingenious jazz-funk remixes of Jay-Z’s Black Album, which was spun upon many of their dj sets. Recently in Atlanta, he has been the music director of many highly acclaimed live sets with Aishah Rashied Hyman’s Spreadlove and DJ Kemit. He has performed and recorded with notable artists including Roy Ayers, The O’Jays, Frank McComb, Angie Stone, Kirk Whalum, Jill Scott, Phonte, Toku, Janelle Monae, India Arie, Anthony David, Bilal, Original Stone City Band, Young Jeezy, Slicc Pulla, B.O.B. and T-Pain.

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Spotlight on Alumni: James Holden

October 12th, 2017 by jsumusic

James Holden’s (’75 BME, ’77 MME) musical leadership includes interim Director of Bands, Director of Virginia State University’s Jazz Ensemble and Chamber Woodwind Ensemble. He served as advisor to VSU’s award winning Gospel Chorale and the HBCU IAJE All-Star Jazz Ensemble. He has also served as a faculty member at Virginia Union University and Jackson State University

Holden, a Mississippi native, received undergraduate and graduate degrees in Music Education from Jackson State University.  He did post-graduate studies at North Texas State University and Berklee School of Music.  A world-class educator/musician, Holden has performed with B.B. King, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Michael Bolton and Solomon Burke for the Pope Benedict Christmas Concert.

Holden continues to perform as a member of the Virginia Saxophone Quartet, the Renaissance Big Band, the Richmond Symphony Pops and the Holden/Thomas Saxophone Duo. He serves on the Petersburg Symphony Board and is active in the arts and music education throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia.

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Spotlight on Alumni: Jerry A. Bracey

October 4th, 2017 by jsumusic

Professor Jerry A. Bracey (’82 MME)  continues to impress audiences with his interpretation of the standard orchestra and band repertoire, his exceptional affinity for 20th Century music and his command of a broad jazz repertoire.  Maestro Bracey’s extensive commitment to the organizations with which he has been affiliated has garnered him a reputation as an orchestra and band builder.  Bracey joined the faculty at Hampton University as Assistant Professor of Music and Assistant Director of Bands in the fall of 1996.  In 1998, he was appointed Director of the Jazz Ensemble and Conductor of the University Orchestra. Additionally, he is the founder of Hampton University Chamber Orchestra student- based ensemble.  Since his appointment marked the first time that one artist held both musical posts at Hampton University. He serves as Coordinator of the Hampton University Music Enrichment Program for Youth (HUM), Instrumental Area Coordinator and Coordinator for the Annual Week of Jazz, Acknowledged for Excellence as a Distinguished Educator in Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers and Sutton Who’s Who in Academia.  He is in demand as guest conductor, clinician and adjudicator.

Prior to his arrival at Hampton University, he served as Director of Bands in Tensas Parish Public Schools, Jackson Public School District and Dougherty County School System.  Under his guidance and experience, the Jazz Ensemble, Symphonic, Concert and Marching Bands received numerous awards, and superior ratings on the local, state and national level.  He also served as the Conductor of the Dougherty Country Youth Symphony Orchestra of Albany, GA.

An important aspect of Bracey’s career has been his close connection to student musicians.  He holds degrees from Jackson State University, Northeast Louisiana University, and further studies at the Nice Academic Internationale D’ete in Nice, France.  While abroad in Europe, he studied conducting with Pierre Dervaux, Ferdinand Quaptocchi; and viola with Christos Michalakakos.  During his studies at Northeast Louisiana University, he studied with Joseph Cleveland, a student of William Primrose.

Bracey is a member of Kappa Kappa Psi honorary Band Fraternity, Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia Fraternity of America, Music Education National Conference (MENC), American String Teachers Association with National School Orchestra Association (ASTA) and (NSOA), International Conductor Guild, National Band Association and the College Orchestra Director Association.

He was the first African American to become a member of the Jackson Symphony Orchestra. Bracey’s performance credits include appointments with the Mississippi Symphony, Monroe Symphony Orchestra, Greenville Symphony, South Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, Ruston Civic Orchestra and the Opera/South Orchestra.

Conducting highlights include productions of Handel’s Messiah and Antonio Vivaldi Magnificent in G minor, Bracey also severed as Musical Director for Hampton University Little Theatre productions of The Broadway show’s GREASE, Smokey Joe’s Café and DREAMGIRLS.

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Spotlight on Alumni: Dr. Burgess Gardner

October 4th, 2017 by jsumusic

Trumpet virtuoso Burgess Gardner, also a composer and former educator, earned a bachelor’s degree in music education from Jackson State University, a master’s degree in educational administration and his Ph.D. in music at Michigan State University. He has played in bands of Count Basie, Horace Silver, and Louis Belleson. He has also played behind artists such as Nancy Wilson, Sammie Davis Jr., Etta James, Lou Rawls, and Sarah Vaughn. He currently directs and plays in an 18-piece “Burgess Gardner Orchestra” throughout Chicago.

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Spotlight on Alumni: Dr. Frank A. Watkins

September 11th, 2017 by jsumusic

Dr. Frank A. Watkins (’01 BM), a native of Omaha Nebraska, taught secondary choral music in Texas for six years. He holds degrees in piano performance from Jackson State University (BM), the University of Arkansas (MM), and choral conducting from Northwestern University (MM) and Michigan State University (DMA). Watkins is in demand as guest conductor and clinician. Recent engagements include the 2013 Mid-Michigan Honor Choir, University of Nebraska Omaha Collegiate Choir Concert Series (2014), Dunn St. Croix Honor Choir (2015), Lakeland All-Conference Honor Choir (2015), University of Nebraska Omaha Middle School Honor Choir (2016), and the Eau Claire Chamber Orchestra (2016). Future engagements include the 2016 Great Northern Conference All- Conference Choir and the 2017 Big Nine Festival Honor Choir in Red Wing, MN. He has presented workshops on choral methods for the International Music and Christian Arts Conference, Michigan State University, and the Ohio State University. In 2015 he presented at both the Wisconsin Music Educators State Convention and the National Collegiate Choral Organization National Conference. Watkins joined the faculty of the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in 2014. In 2016, he was appointed Conductor and Music Director of the Eau Claire Chamber Orchestra. A dynamic young conductor, Watkins’ love and passion are teaching. He believes that in order to educate, you must first inspire! It is his goal to make an impact…not just an impression on the lives of those that follow his baton.

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Spotlight on Faculty and Students

June 29th, 2017 by jsumusic

Members of the JSU Vocal Area conducted the 2017 Summer Vocal/Choral Academy in June. "This was the 2nd year of the SVCA and it was a tremendous success!" said Dr. Loretta Galbreath, Assistant Professor and director for the week-long academy.  "The academy offered theory, sight-singing, voice/performance class, private lessons, choral ensemble, choreography and yoga.  The JSU vocal faculty, alum volunteers, current vocal majors and parents contributed to the success of the academy."
Students were engaged with innovative and fun leaning experiences.  The evaluations from parents and students were outstanding!  Dr. Phyllis Lewis-Hale, Director of Opera/Theatre Workshop and Mr. Rodney Vaughn, Instructor also assisted with the academy.


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