Band Director Dr. Southall invited to conduct the U.S. Army Band in Washington, D.C.

Posted 2/20/24

The performance will be featured during a convention in Washington, D.C. ...

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Band Director Dr. Southall invited to conduct the U.S. Army Band in Washington, D.C.


FORT PIERCE — Dr. John Southall, Director of Bands and Chair of the Indian River State College Performing and Visual Arts Department, has been selected for the rare honor of conducting the U.S. Army Band — also known as “Pershing’s Own” — on March 6. The performance will be featured during a convention in Washington, D.C., where Dr. Southall will also be inducted into the American Bandmasters Association (ABA).

The ABA was founded in 1929 by famed composer and conductor John Phillip Sousa and Edwin Franko Goldman to elevate the esteem of the art of concert band performing and honor the world’s top conductors and composers of band music. Nomination to the ABA is a rigorous, year-long process in which member conductors review hundreds of nominees. Dr. Southall learned last March that he was selected for induction.

ABA President Mike Colburn, the retired director of the U.S. Marine Band known as “The President’s Own,” contacted all the service band leaders and asked them to create a concert series for the upcoming convention that includes all of the incoming inductees. Southall was selected for “Pershing’s Own.”

“I’m very excited,” Southall said of the double honor. “This is one of the top military concert bands in, arguably, the world.”

General John J. “Black Jack” Pershing formed the U.S. Army Band in 1922 to emulate the world-class European military bands he heard during World War I. Pershing believed that bands played a vital role in troop morale and efficiency. His goal was to give America a premier band to surpass those in Europe. Today, it is also known as “Pershing’s Own” for this reason.

Among other key events in American history, “Pershing’s Own” band performed at the 1925 inauguration of President Calvin Coolidge, performed in honor of Charles Lindberg’s historic flight across the Atlantic Ocean in 1927, and played at the 1924 and 1925 World Series. More recently, the band has been called into service for funerals at Arlington Cemetery.

Southall will conduct a piece called “Peace Dancer for Wind Ensemble” by Australian composer Jodie Blackshaw, which was commissioned by the University of British Columbia. The piece is inspired by the First Nations text by Roy Vickers about a sacred dance created specifically for the Chiefs of the Pacific Northwest coast. The Chief who is chosen to dance is recognized as a healer in the community.

Southall chose “Peace Dancer” because Blackshaw dedicated the composition to Dr. Craig Kirchhoff, Southall’s close friend and colleague. Kirchhoff is Director of Bands at the University of Minnesota and has inspired and taught several people from the Treasure Coast. Eric Allen, former band director at Sebastian River High School, studied with Kirchhoff and, after achieving his Doctoral Degree in Conducting, is now teaching at Texas Tech University. Shanti Simon, a former associate band director at Vero Beach High School, also studied with Kirchhoff, became a prominent military band conductor, and serves as Director of Bands at the University of Oklahoma.

“This piece is even more special to me because it was dedicated to Craig,” Southall says.

Indian River State College President Dr. Timothy Moore, an Army veteran, put Southall in contact with a three-star general so that he could learn more about Army protocol for when he works with the ensemble, Southall said.

“There is no music educator more deserving of this dual recognition than Dr. John Southall,” concluded Dr. Moore, “it is befitting that he accepts it on a national stage alongside his peers, with pomp and circumstance.”

Dr. Southall has been an active music education advocate, conductor, clinician, adjudicator, and presenter across the United States for more than 34 years. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Music Education from Florida A&M University, and a Master of Music Education and Doctor of Philosophy in Music Education from Florida State University. In addition to serving as Director of Bands at IRSC, he is Coordinator of Music Education Therapy, Past President of the Florida Music Education Association, and Music Director for the Port St. Lucie Community Band. He was honored as a Music Education Legend by the Midwest International Band and Orchestra Conference and is a two-time recipient of the Indian River State College Endowed Teaching Chair in Fine Arts Award.

irsc, band, director, John Southall, washington d.c., U.S. Army Band