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For the First Time, All Ole Miss Band Directors Share Title of ‘Band Dad’

By Erin Garrett

University Communications

University of Mississippi band directors, Tim Oliver, Randy Dale and Mel Morse have a lot in common: their mastery of music, love of sports and, now, the title of “band dad.”

For the first time in the Pride of the South‘s history, all three of its directors have children in the band.

“I have a child in the band; it’s weird,” said Randy Dale, associate director of bands and director of athletic bands. “And it’s very unique that all three of us do.”

Dale’s son, Cooper, is a sophomore music major from Oxford who plays in the drum line. He describes his relationship with his father as a very normal one, even though his dad directs dozens of his peers.

“In band, I don’t feel treated any differently at all,” Cooper Dale said. “He feels like a normal band director and not necessarily my dad.”

Cooper Dale is following in his father’s footsteps.

“When I was in sixth grade, I knew I wanted to play drums because my dad did,” Dale said. “He influenced me to become a drummer. I always thought they were one of the coolest instruments to play.

“He was also a member of the Ole Miss band like I am.”

The tradition also runs strong in Morse’s family. At 18, the California native went on “blind faith” to enroll at the university in 1992 after receiving a scholarship offer from then-director David Willson.

“I took the leap, showed up and instantly was part of the band – I found my people immediately,” said Morse, who is assistant director of bands. “I think that’s one of the things that band does for people overall. It helps you find people and finding footing in the community.”

After graduating with a master’s in music education, Morse taught K-12 band for 22 years before returning to the university. He was able to direct his daughter, Emily, as she began band at Oxford Middle School. When he was considering the position at Ole Miss, his daughter was an entering freshman.

“I asked her when the job came open here, ‘Are you OK with me following you to college?’ because she literally graduated from high school and we both showed up in 2021 to the Ole Miss campus,” he said.

“She said, “Absolutely – you’ve been my band director my whole life.'”

As a child, Emily Morse, a junior allied health studies and communication sciences and disorders major from Oxford, would follow her dad to band competitions. He encouraged her to pick an instrument that she was passionate about.

“I play oboe,” said Morse, who is also in color guard. “My mom, dad and sister play French horn, so that was a complete 180 from them. I think it was a shock, but he allowed me to find my individuality in that.

“Not only did he make me a better musician, but he also helped me become a better person as I watched him lead.”

Beginning in sixth grade, Morse has taken photos with her dad at every band event they have attended together. Those photos continue today as mementos of her family’s Ole Miss band legacy.

“My parents met in band while they were here and my dad proposed to my mom in the middle of a rehearsal,” she said. “There are a lot of full-circle moments surrounding the Ole Miss band – you become part of a close-knit community.”

The newest member of the university band staff, Oliver began as director of bands in July. Coincidentally, his son, Ben, was already a student at the university and baritone player in the band.

“Ben visited Ole Miss on a whim, and he loved it,” Oliver said. “So, he decided to come to school here. It’s really interesting now because I’m the new person, but he’s a senior.”

Ben Oliver, a Jonesboro, Arkansas, native and public policy leadership major, said he encouraged his father to throw his name in the hat for the band director position.

“My folks have been coming to Ole Miss for games since I enrolled,” Oliver said. “My mom said the Grove is her happy place, so it made sense for my dad to apply for the position when it opened.”

Tim Oliver said he and his son have enjoyed the camaraderie of attending games together.

“It’s nice to be able to go to games together,” he said. “A big play will happen in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, and I’ll look back there and he’ll look at me and we’ll kind of catch each other’s eye like, ‘Yeah, that was a good play.'”

For more reasons than one, it is a special time for the Ole Miss band program, Ben Oliver said.

“We’ve been consistently growing and receiving investments like our new uniforms and our beautiful new field,” he said. “It’s cool getting to know some of the freshmen in band right now. They were able to see us beat LSU and experience all these things – it’s a great time to be in the band and it’s a great time to be at Ole Miss.

“Every once in a while, it dawns on me that it’s special to be part of program like this, especially on Saturdays when everything feels electric and comes alive. It’s extra special to see my parents in the Grove and mom’s all weepy because we’re playing her favorite stuff again. Being a senior, I can’t think of a better way to wrap up my time here.”

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