Every year, Hattiesburg’s music lovers anxiously await the announcement of The University of Southern Mississippi Symphony Orchestra season. Celebrating 96 years, the venerable organization is the state’s oldest orchestra and a leader in cultural offerings for the region.
Music Director Jay Dean notes: “Every symphonic concert this season features wind or brass soloists. Some of these performers will be students who come from different parts of the world, including Mississippi, while others are globally renowned celebrity artists. Therefore, it seems that we should title the season something reflective of this unusual circumstance. With this in mind, please join us for a “WorldWind” of a season.”
The 96th season begins Oct. 1 with an opening-night concert titled, “New Acquaintances and Old Friends,” includes two new world premieres: Nostalgic Dances by retired composer-in-residence Luigi Zaninelli and Southern Miss’ new horn professor, Jacquelyn Adams, with the premiere of Radiant Dances for Horn and Strings by James Naigus in her Mississippi debut.
Continuing in October, the Southern Opera and Musical Theatre Company will present Bernstein’s classic award-winning musical West Side Story. In November, “Sonic Blast” features Dmitri Shostakovich’s incredibly powerful Symphony No. 5. As well as the Mississippi premiere of John Stevens’ Grand Concerto for 4 Tubas, providing a literal inspiration for the title of this concert.
Annual collaborative productions include the “Holiday Choral Spectacular” with Choral Activities in December, Georges Bizet’s opera, Carmen, with Southern Opera and Musical Theatre Company in February, and the “Future Stars” concert in April, featuring brass, wind and percussion student winners of the William T. Gower Concerto Competition
Other season highlights include the season’s spring concerts beginning with Nielsen’s Clarinet Concerto featuring Anthony McGill, principal clarinetist of the New York Philharmonic as guest soloist. Following this performance, and sure to be one of the most memorable events of this season, is the return of Sir James and Lady Jeanne Galway in March at a concert simply called “The Galway’s Return.” It will be their third appearance in Mississippi, all of which have been with The University of Southern Mississippi Symphony Orchestra.
“I am humbled by the generous support so many have shown this orchestra over the years and in particular, this year,” said Dean. “So many students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends have worked hard to make this ‘little orchestra that could’ really soar. I am so grateful.”
The symphony regularly performs to sold-out houses with audience members representing a diverse cross-section of the southeastern United States. Dean’s recruiting efforts have turned the organization into a multinational conglomerate.
Dean’s vision literally has brought the world to Mississippi, including performances across the state with internationally known classical icons such as Plácido Domingo, Renée Fleming, Itzhak Perlman, and Yo-Yo Ma, to popular artists such as Doc Severinsen, The Pointer Sisters, Patti La Belle, Dionne Warwick and Sandi Patty.
Dean is a musical ambassador for Mississippi. In 2009, the State of Mississippi recognized his and the orchestra’s efforts with the Governor’s Award for Leadership in the Arts. Dean’s central mission is to provide life-changing experiences for his students and raise the quality of life in the community and state of which he is a part.
Season tickets are now on sale at the Southern Miss Ticket Office by calling 601.266.5418 or 800.844.8425. Individual tickets to events go on sale September 1.