The Department of Music at Jackson State University has become, over a period of 111 years, one of the largest music programs in the State of Mississippi. University records show that as early as 1887, a teacher was assigned to teach music as well as other subjects. In 1896, the title "Music Department” was used to refer to music instruction. According to the catalog for that year, instruction was given on the piano, cabinet organ, cornet and in vocal music.
Some twenty-five (25) years later, during the administration of Frederick Douglas Hall who served from 1921-1927, the Music Department was referred to as the Jackson College Conservatory of Music and in 1925 published its own catalog. The Conservatory operated branch studios at Lanier High School and Martin Public School in Jackson. In addition, extension classes were taught in Canton, McComb, Magnolia and Summit, MS. Hazel Lee Olive, Acquilla Jones, Lannie Marshall, James White and Peal Varnado served in various departmental capacities. Dr. Hall edited and arranged the Alma Mater "Jackson Fair” and also sponsored the Lyre Club, a student group that provided numerous campus services.
Past chairman of the Department of Music have included: Edgar R. Clark (1950-1957), Robert A. Henry (1957-1962), Dollye M.E. Robinson (1962-1983), Jimmie James, Jr. (1983-2009), Alfred Duckett (2014-2015), and Lisa Beckley-Roberts (2020 – present).
The Department of Music is housed in the F.D. Hall Music Center, which was completed in 1976. This two-story modern structure has a gross area of 58,638 square feet. The building contains studios, a gallery, recital hall, recording studio, classrooms, large ensemble rehearsal rooms and space for the academic and performance requirements of music students and faculty.
In 1977, the University was granted associate membership status in the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM) being entitled to all the rights, privileges and recognition appertaining thereunto, and became a full member in 1985.
Jackson State University has been designated an Urban University by the Board of Trustees. The Department of Music supports this designation by helping to carry out programs in support of the mission. An outstanding curriculum, a distinguished faculty, modern facilities and a commitment to excellence in all programs of study best describe music at Jackson State University.