Music Dept. News

Spotlight: Dr. Roderick Little

May 12th, 2020 by jsumusic

Dr. Roderick Little is the new director of bands at Jackson State University, replacing Dowell Taylor, who will retire on June 30, after 34 years of service to JSU.

“Other than my family, this is amongst the highest honor that I have been bestowed. I am humbled and ready to propel our great program forward,” said Little.

At 34, Little is one of the youngest band directors and arrangers in the school’s history. He joined the JSU music department in 2012 as an assistant band director and instructor of music. He was appointed associate director of bands in 2013 and made marching band director in 2015.

Earlier this year, Little was honored by the Jackson City Council for his long-standing service with the Jackson Public School system and his accomplishments at JSU. Now, it appears he has reached another career milestone. For that, Little gives special acknowledgment to Taylor’s tutelage and service to JSU’s band program and for shaping “three generations of productive citizens.” He also thanks previous directors William W. Davis, Harold Haughton Sr.,  Dr. Lewis Liddell and O’Neil Sanford.

“Without the tireless work of these outstanding gentlemen, this opportunity would not be afforded to me. Whenever presented with an honor or recognition, I have to thank others for attributing to my accomplishments,” he said.

A music virtuoso, Taylor shared that he is proud to pass the baton to Little, before describing him as a young man who has proven to be well prepared for high-intensity leadership and one who has surpassed his performance expectations. He also summed up his sentiments toward JSU.

“Jackson State University has been good to me, and I would like to think the same in reverse. Since 1984, I have boldly stood on the shoulders of past directors. Now, it’s time for a new generation of directors to stand on mine,” said Taylor, who added that although he will miss his JSU family dearly, he is looking forward to boating and continuing as a true fan of the Sonic Boom.

Dowell Taylor, director of the Sonic Boom, will retire in June. He will pass the torch to Dr. Roderick Little, a jackson native and JSU alum. (Photo special to JSU)

Dowell Taylor, director of the Sonic Boom, will retire in June. He will pass the torch to Dr. Roderick Little, a Jackson native and JSU alum. (Photo special to JSU)

Dr. Lisa Beckley-Roberts, interim chair of the Department of Music, called the change in leadership the beginning of a new era for the band and music department.

“Mr. Taylor has done amazing work building the program, so we will miss him immensely. But, Dr. Little will build upon that legacy and take bands at JSU to the next level,” she said. “He is very quiet because his work always speaks volumes. The entire band staff is phenomenal, and with him at the helm, I do not doubt that we will see the program reach new heights.”

A JSU alum, Little received his bachelor’s and master’s in music education from the university. In 2019, he completed a doctorate in urban higher education. As a youth, Little had his sights set on leadership. While a student at Lanier High School, he was tasked with band director duties at the age of 16. After graduating, he led the Lanier band from 2008-2011.

In a previous interview, Little said his relationship with students aids in his abilities as a director. “If you don’t know how to connect with them, and overall understand the trends of what’s going on now, you can miss out on a lot of things.”

Little articulated that the continued and further success of the JSU program is dependent upon a team effort from ”our amazing students, who put in the true work for our program.” He goes on to praise the “highly eminent band staff,” which includes “Lowell Hollinger, who has taken our wind ensemble to greater heights; Kevan Johnson, an outstanding educator and arranger; Chloe Crowley, who provides outstanding direction/mentorship to our Prancing JSettes; Courtney Lett, the glue of our internal operations; and Calvin Berry, a keen motivator to our percussion students.”

Posted in Music Dept. News

Spotlight on Alumni: Dr. Kiana Day Williams

October 23rd, 2019 by jsumusic

Dr. Kiana Day Williams (‘05 BME, '08 MME) is an Assistant Professor of Music/Director of Choirs at Texas Southern University, where along with teaching lecture courses and Applied Voice, she conducts the TSU University Choir as well as the TSU Concert Chorale. Prior to TSU, Dr. Williams served as Director of Fine Arts at the historic Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church in Houston, TX, where her responsibilities ranged from leading Praise & Worship during worship services, conducting four of the church’s nine choral ensembles, directing the church’s community orchestra, and producing the church’s Christmas and Easter theatrical productions.

A native of Jackson, MS and 2001 graduate of Callaway High School, Dr. Kiana Day Williams graduated Magna cum Laude with a Bachelor of Music Education with Piano emphasis degree from JSU and went on to receive a Master of Music Education with Vocal Emphasis from JSU, graduating with a 4.0 GPA. She has also received the Doctorate of Musical Arts degree in Music Education with a Minor in Choral Conducting from the University of Houston in Houston, TX (’18). 

During her tenure as a student at JSU, Dr. Williams was a dedicated member of the Sonic Boom of the South Marching Band and JSU Symphonic Wind Ensemble, student conductor for the JSU University Choir and Concert Chorale, an inaugural member of the Lady Tigers Soccer Team, Chaplain for the Gamma Rho chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., and was honored by her peers to be selected to reign as Miss Jackson State University 2004-2005.

Kiana’s teaching career began in Jackson, MS at Forest Hill High School where as Director of Choral Activities at Forest Hill High School, she rebuilt a struggling choral program and created a musical theatre curriculum, ultimately resulting in multiple superior-rated choral ensembles from 2006-2008. Additionally, during her tenure at Forest Hill, Kiana served as an arranger for the school’s marching band.

Upon moving to Houston, TX, Dr. Williams served as Lecturer of Music in the Moores School of Music at the University of Houston from 2008-2017, teaching courses for music majors and non-majors. She was also choral director at G.W. Carver High School for Technology, Engineering, and Performing Arts in Aldine ISD for the 2013-14 school year, with the Women’s Varsity Choir receiving superior ratings at the state level of choral competition. Dr. Williams also served as Music Director and Orchestra Leader for the school’s 2014 production of Lin Manuel Miranda’s In the Heights, which received the 2014 Tommy Tune Award for Best Orchestra.

Along with music teaching, Dr. Williams has served as a Program Manager for Houston Grand Opera as well as a Community Music Director at Theater Under the Stars (TUTS). A stellar vocal performer in her own right, Dr. Williams performs often at various venues and events in Houston, including being the guest artist at House of Blues’ World Famous Gospel Brunch and performing the National Anthem for Black Heritage Night at the 2018 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo held in NRG Stadium.

Dr. Williams lives in Humble, TX with her husband Calvin Williams, 2-year-old son Arian Noah and 15-month-old daughter Ariah Noelle.

Posted in Music Dept. News

Spotlight on Alumni: Dr. Michael Magruder

August 19th, 2019 by jsumusic

Dr. Michael Magruder ('77, BME) is a native of Jackson, Mississippi. He received a Master of Music degree in Clarinet performance from Louisiana State University in 1979 and the Doctorate from the University of Mississippi in 2001. 

Dr. Magruder began his teaching career as the band director of Sadie V. Thompson Jr. High School in Natchez, Mississippi. He was also the Director of Bands at Texas College in Tyler, Texas. For ten years, Dr. Magruder performed his duties as the Band Director of L.B. Landry Junior Senior High School in New Orleans, LA.  He also served as an Assistant Professor of Music/Associate Director of Bands at Jackson State University from 1993-2004.

Dr. Magruder performed with the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra, the Mississippi Wind Symphony and many small ensembles.  He now performs with the Piedmont Wind Symphony in Winston-Salem, NC. An accomplished clarinetist, Dr. Magruder enjoys the art of making music.

Dr. Magruder assumed the duties of Director of Bands at Winston-Salem State University in the fall of 2004.  A competent arranger, conductor, educator, performer, rehearsal technician and band master, Dr. Magruder has served as a clinician, and adjudicator throughout the country.  In addition, Dr. Magruder assumed the position of Interim Chair of the Department of Fine Arts effective July 2011. He is now the Chair of the Department of Music effective August 2013.

Since his arrival at Winston-Salem State University, the “Red Sea of Sound” Marching Band has received numerous awards and countless recognition for outstanding performances.  The band has also performed with noted artist such as Donald Lawrence and Gerald Albright. 

In addition, the “Red Sea of Sound” performed at the prestigious Honda Battle of the Bands in January of 2008, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2017. As a result of these performances, the band earned over $100,000.00 in scholarships for its members over a ten year period.

Dr. Magruder is a member of various organizations including:  (1) Intercollegiate Music Association, (IMA) Treasurer, (2) Board of Directors -HBCU National Band Directors Consortium (HBCU-NBDC), (3) Kappa Kappa Psi National Honorary Band Fraternity, (4) Tau Beta Sigma National Honorary Band Sorority, and (5) the Psi Phi Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. Dr. Magruder will observe his 45th year as a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity in 2019.

Dr. Magruder is married to Stephanie H. Magruder, a native of New Orleans, Louisiana. They are members of Mt. Pleasant MBC in W-S, NC.  Dr. Magruder and his wife are the proud parents of three daughters, Brittany, Rachel, and Arielle, all graduates of Winston-Salem State University.  Dr. Magruder also has a son Michael (wife Kendra). They have two daughters (Montoria, a graduate of Mid-Western State University in Wichita Falls, TX and Mikaila Tripp). A recent addition to the family is “Tre” our 9 month old grandson.

Posted in Music Dept. News

Spotlight on Alumni: Jacob Dodd

August 5th, 2019 by jsumusic

During his undergraduate experience at Jackson State University, Jacob Dodd ('13, BM) was a member of the "Sonic Boom of The South" marching band, and became saxophone section leader throughout his sophomore-senior years.  Jacob has been awarded for winning 2nd, then 1st prizes in the James E. Hefner HBCU Piano Competition in 2011-2012 held at Tennessee State University. 

After graduation, Jacob quickly transitioned into his music career by returning to his home state of Minnesota to become assistant music director at his home church in St. Paul.  After a few years, he is currently the Minister of Music. He also started to become a collaborative musician by accompanying and piloting a piano program for a nonprofit children’s chorus called “ComMUSICation,” where underserving youth gains quality musical education through the philosophies and inspiration of El Sistema, a Venezuelan music program that targets music for social change.

Jacob is affiliated with many avenues of the music world both scholastically and entertainment wise. He was one of the musicians for the Minnesota State Baptist Convention Choir’s recent album, “We Are Better Together.” He also has collaborated with an eclectic background of artists such as Stokley, Dottie Peoples, “The Voice” Jesse Larson, and Kierra Sheard, to name a few.

Jacob currently teaches private/school partnership group piano lessons of a wide range musical styles, and freelances with local/internationally acclaimed musicians across the Twin Cities. Beginning Fall 2019, he will take another step in teaching by instructing collegiate students at Minneapolis College in Minneapolis, MN.

Posted in 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.

Posted in Music Dept. News

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.

Posted in Music Dept. News

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.

Posted in Music Dept. News

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.






Posted in Music Dept. News

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.

Posted in Music Dept. News

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.

Posted in Music Dept. News