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A Tale of Two Journeys: Ole Miss Associate Director of Bands Bill DeJournett

Bill DeJournett, Ole Miss Associate Director of Bands, leads a rehearsal Tuesday, March 8.
Bill DeJournett, Ole Miss Associate Director of Bands, leads a rehearsal Tuesday, March 8.

Beginning of a Musical Career

If uncertainty about a future career plagued you in the last few months of high school and caused you to break out in a cold sweat whenever anyone asked, then Ole Miss Associate Director of Bands, Bill DeJournett, knows exactly how you felt.

 Ole Miss Associate Director of Bands, Bill DeJournett.

Ole Miss Associate Director of Bands, Bill DeJournett.

Standing near the end zone at his last high school marching band contest in 1985, DeJournett knew it was time decide whether to pursue his passion for music or his passion for writing.

“It wasn’t necessarily a happy moment,” DeJournett said. “I thought ‘Dangit, I guess I’ll have to be a band director.’”

This decision proved to be the more beneficial option of the two, and DeJournett has been a successful and respected college professor for 19 years.

After graduating high school, and a “less than positive experience at Georgia State,” DeJournett transferred to Jackson State University in Jacksonville, Alabama where he got his bachelor’s degree in music education. He then attended graduate school at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Illinois.

“My department chair at JSU was a good friend of the department chair at NIU. I went up there and auditioned, and they gave me an assistantship, a scholarship, a stipend, and whatnot…so that’s how I came to go there,” DeJournett said. “My master’s is actually in choral conducting, but I haven’t done much with that.”

DeJournett is director of the Ole Miss Symphonic Band.
DeJournett is director of the Ole Miss Symphonic Band.

During his college years, DeJournett was a member of Kappa Kappa Psi, Omicron Delta Kappa and Phi Mu Alpha.

“It [Phi Mu Alpha] was just one of those happy accidents, and it was a great bonding experience being a part of that brotherhood,” DeJournett said.

DeJournett believes music fraternities are excellent ways to volunteer while still being able to do something geared toward personal interests.

“It’s an excellent opportunity to have fellowship in a professional organization who shares your interests, and you can contribute to the department through service,” DeJournett said.

DeJournett also marched with The Spirit of Atlanta and Phantom Regiment, two junior drum and bugle corps associated with Drum Corps International (DCI), and he encourages all musicians to join a corp.

DeJournett marching with Phantom Regiment in 1988.
DeJournett marching with Phantom Regiment in 1988.

“If you like to travel, and you like to make music with your friends, and you’re ambitious, it’s a really great activity to be a part of,” DeJournett said.

While sitting at the pool with a friend, DeJournett decided that he no longer enjoyed teaching middle school and wanted to go into higher education. When his friend suggested Virginia and Ole Miss, DeJournett realized he hadn’t thought about either of those schools.

“The next day I called the band office and asked if they had a doctoral program in music education, and the man on the phone said yes. So, I went there and met with the associate director of bands at the time, and they liked me,” DeJournett said. “I packed my stuff in a U-Haul, and took my cat, and we moved to Mississippi.”

After earning his doctorate and prior to becoming a director at Ole Miss, DeJournett was Director of Athletic Bands at Colorado State University and at Elon University in North Carolina.

DeJournett is the marching band coordinator for the “Pride of the South.”
DeJournett is the marching band coordinator for the “Pride of the South.”

DeJournett said the colleges he attended really weren’t all that different from Ole Miss.

“In some ways, it [JSU] was like Ole Miss in that it was in a small Southern town, but there wasn’t near as big of an athletic experience that there is here,” DeJournett said. “The band was more important than the football team.”

In 2003, DeJournett became a professor at Ole Miss. He is the director of the “Pride of the South” marching band in the fall, director of the Symphonic band in the spring, and teaches courses on conducting and classical period music.

There are two things DeJournett loves most about teaching at Ole Miss.

Bill DeJournett leads the rehearsal Tuesday, March 8.
Bill DeJournett leads the rehearsal Tuesday, March 8.

“Number one is seeing students come in that aren’t quite up to their potential yet and getting to see them grow to their full potential, and number two is getting out on the road and helping bands recruit,” DeJournett said.

Students admire DeJournett for his witty jokes and the way he makes rehearsals entertaining.

Assistant director of Bands at Starkville High School, Kyle Hickey said, “I became close to Dr. D because I was in his Symphonic Band for three years while I was an undergrad and was one of his grad assistants in grad school. I could talk to him about anything from the repertoire we were playing in band to new jokes we had learned.”

Chapter Two: Journalism

But despite taking a career path in the arts, DeJournett never gave up his appreciation for writing. He is currently pursuing a master’s degree in journalism at the Meek School of Journalism.

“I can’t see myself doing anything else, and at this point in my career, I need to start looking at the endgame,” DeJournett said. “So, that’s my plan for retirement. A lot of retired band directors drive busses, or do fundraisers, but that’s what I wanna do. I wanna write.”

pride of the south book

DeJournett has written piecemeal work for HottyToddy.com, and PMQ Pizza Magazine, and multiple articles for the Oxford Citizen. He has also published two books: “The Pride of the South 1928-2014: The Ole Miss Band” and “A History and Brass Secrets of the Drum and Bugle Corps: A Comprehensive Guide to Outdoor Brass Technique.”

The latter is currently undergoing second publication, and DeJournett is co-writing The New Director’s Survival Guide with Director of Bands at Ole Miss, David Willson.

“I actually wrote that my first year back here [Ole Miss]. It was a combination of my desire to write, and a desire to put forth a product that would be helpful to band directors,” DeJournett said.

When he’s not conducting or writing, DeJournett enjoys traveling and considers himself both a history and a movie buff.

“I went to Berlin. I went to Tawain in 2011, which was actually free. I went to Ireland, and I went to Hawaii last year,” DeJournett said. “I’m a Netflix nerd, so I’m always eager to see if there’s anything in my mailbox because I don’t do the online streaming…and I’ll watch anything on television like documentaries that have to do with history.”

DeJournett believes the Ole Miss Band can be a beneficial opportunity for many students, and encourages anyone with musical abilities to join.

Ole Miss band students listen attentively to DeJournett at rehearsal on March 8.
Ole Miss band students listen attentively to DeJournett at rehearsal on March 8.

“The best thing about being in the band is the people you’re going to meet from all over the country, and whether or not you’re into music, it’s a good activity to be in when you’re looking for a job,” DeJournett said. “It’s a unique experience and college band is unlike any other experience you’ll have in life. Music ensembles in general are a great way to share common interests with people.”

Aspects of Ole Miss bands would not be able to function if it were not for DeJournett’s vital contributions and impressive teaching abilities.

“By watching him, I learned the most effective way to run a rehearsal,” graduate assistant Eric Malone said.

According to DeJournett, after so many years, accomplishments start to run together. But he says his book is the biggest contribution he’s made to Ole Miss.

“Being the director of the marching band is a huge honor, and it humbles me every day in the fall when I get up on that tower. That’s just awesome and humbling and terrifying all at the same time knowing these 300 students are relying on me for guidance and rehearsal technique,” DeJournett said. “Seeing students grow, mature, and progress, and seeing music education majors become successful when they get out, and seeing them have successful band programs in their own right is fun and satisfying.”

Cambria Abdeen is a HottyToddy.com intern. She can be reached at cambria.abdeen@yahoo.com.

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