Artistic & General Director

Jay Dean


JAY DEAN has directed and conducted the University of Southern Mississippi Symphony Orchestra since 1988, and his work as a conductor and educator spans orchestras in the United States, Central and South America, Europe, and Asia. His recruiting efforts have turned the USM Symphony Orchestra into a multinational conglomerate that includes students from over fifteen countries. Unique partnerships that have been developed under his leadership have allowed the orchestra to achieve a spirit and reputation of superior musicianship that has brought international acclaim to the university and to the state. As a musical ambassador for Mississippi, Dean regularly seeks opportunities to collaborate with world-class artists. His orchestra has performed with world-renowned instrumental icons such as Itzhak Perlman, Yo-Yo Ma, Sir James Galway, Joshua Bell, Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, Manuel Barrueco, John Browning, Christopher Parkening, Edgar Meyer, Ransom Wilson, Alexandre Brussilovsky, and Amit Paled. At home conducting a broad range of musical genres, his skills as an artistic producer and manager have enabled him to collaborate on projects of a much broader context. He has directed performances across the state with major popular artists such as Doc Severinsen, The Pointer Sisters, Patti La Belle, Dionne Warwick, Patti Austin, Ricky Skaggs, Rhonda Vincent, Linda Eder, and stars from the American Idol television series. 

In 1992, Dean added the Southern Opera and Musical Theatre Company to his endeavors at Southern Miss. Under his direction, the opera has grown into a competitive program that presents fully produced operas, operettas, and musicals each season. Part of its evolution includes the development of an educational outreach program that reaches not only area children, but tours various cities throughout the state and region. His penchant for operatic, musical theatre, and crossover vocal repertoire has manifested performances with operatic superstars and popular icons such as Renée Fleming, Denyce Graves, Sandi Patty, Roberta Peters, Deborah Voigt, and Plácido Domingo.

Through creating or contributing to numerous festival and artistic projects, Dean strives to enhance of quality of life, economic development, and the synthesis of cultural awareness with music education in each of the communities he touches. He currently serves as the Artistic Director for Mississippi Opera and the Natchez Festival of Music, Executive Director of the Arts Institute of Mississippi at the University of Southern Mississippi, and Founding Artistic Director of FestivalSouth—a festival that is quickly garnering a national presence. He is the former General Director of the Hattiesburg Concert Association and other past appointments include: regional membership chair for the International Conductors Guild, State President of the National Opera Association, service on the board of directors for the Mississippi Opera Education Committee, Executive Director of P.R.I.M.E. (the Professional Resource Institute of Musical Excellence) at USM, past President of the Mississippi Orchestra Teachers Association and the Mississippi Music Educators Association Orchestra Division, representative for the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning and founding advisor for the Mississippi School of the Arts, Executive Director of the Vicksburg International Chamber Music Festival, Artistic Director of the Southern Arts Festival, and music coordinator for four international art exhibitions presented by the Mississippi Commission for International Cultural Exchange.

The symphony, opera, and other artistic programs he directs at Southern Miss and throughout the state are projects that enhance the lives of citizens throughout our state. His work within the community and university was honored in 2009 when he and the University of Southern Mississippi Symphony Orchestra received the Governor’s Award for Leadership in the Arts, an award for “Bringing the world to Mississippi.” In 2011 Dean’s continual effort to bring world-class art to the local community and state of Mississippi was again recognized with a the Leadership in the Arts award from the Historic Hattiesburg Downtown Association and the Excellence for Global Arts and Culture award from the Mississippi World Trade Center. Dean has also been inducted into the USM Alumni Hall of Fame and is a recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the University of Southern Mississippi Research Council.

Prior to his tenure in the great state of Mississippi, Jay Dean served as Director of the Dekalb Youth Symphony Orchestra in Atlanta, Director of the Mercer University/Atlanta Chamber Orchestra, Director of the Columbus State University Orchestra, and Conductor for the Atlanta Festival Orchestra and Chorus, the Austin Civic Orchestra and the Southwest Chamber Orchestra. He received his DMA in orchestral conducting from The University of Texas at Austin and is a member of the International Conductors Guild. His continuing mission “is to provide life-changing experiences for his students and contribute to the quality of life in the community and state of which he is a part.”