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Drumroll for Dr. John Wooton

Southern Miss’ Campus Celebrity of the week is Dr. John Wooton who is the director of percussion here at Southern. Dr. Wooton directs many percussion groups here on campus such as, The Steel Pan Orchestra, The Brazilian Samba Band, The Southern Miss drum line, and the Orchestral Percussion Ensemble. Dr. Wooton’s great drumming talent can be seen through all of his work here at Southern and also on Top Chef where he recently made an appearance in a drum line that he organized himself.

Her Campus: “You’ve done a lot for the Music Department at Southern Miss. Two groups in particular have really taken off and grown. The Southern Miss Drum Line and The Southern Miss Steel Pan Orchestra (SoMiSPO). Can you tell me about these groups and how they’ve grown?” 

John Wooton: “Yes, the drum line is definitely the most visible group I work with and the Steel Pan Orchestra I think relates to more people than other ensembles. It’s beautiful, energetic and fun. Rudimental drumming is one of my specialties and I get to travel around the world giving clinics and concerts so naturally I like to work with the Pride drum line. They are very good and we definitely have a unique style. I do not want to sound like all other drum lines and I try to make sure that the Southern Miss drum line has it’s own unique character.” 

“The Steel Pan Orchestra is something I am very proud about and I enjoy every rehearsal and performance with those guys. We have accomplished quite a bit and are recognized as one of the elite steel pan programs in the country. We have had, and have, students from the land of the steel pan, Trinidad, come here to Southern Miss to study percussion. Last year our guest artist was Andy Narell. We performed his music along with the Jazz Lab Band I and special guests Mark Walker (drum set prof at Berklee School of Music) and Lord Relator (Calypsonian from Trinidad).”

“That is one thing I don’t think many people realize is that the expectations, standards, discipline and productivity of this percussion program are way above average. The program is recognized nationally and internationally but sometimes not recognized in our own backyard. That is common and natural, “You are not a prophet in your own land,” but I would like for students to come to one of our concerts to see for themselves.”

HC: “I saw that you and your son, Drew, were on Top Chef a little over a month ago. It was awesome to see some familiar faces being able to show off their great talent! Tell me about that experience and how that all happened.” 

JW: “The Top Chef gig was a lot of fun. One of the producers of the show called me from Los Angeles and said that he was told I was the guy to talk to if he wanted a drum line to perform in New Orleans. So, we worked things out, I put together a group consisting of me, my son Drew, two former students Kelton Norris and Josanne Francis and a couple of guys from NOLA, Derrick Hilliard and New Orleans drumming icon Johnny Vidacovich. They filmed this past season ofTop Chef at the old Mardi Gras World in Algiers and we filmed our episode in late July. I made up a little beat, taught it to those guys when we arrived at Mardi Gras world and then we spent two hours filming which resulted into about one minute of music.” 

Watch Dr. Wooton drum on Top Chef here:http://www.bravotv.com/top-chef/season-11/videos/questlove-s-drumstick-quickfire

HC: “Lastly, any advice you would give to aspiring drummers?”

JW: “Advice for an aspiring drummer?! I tell my students to “Practice, don’t suck and HAVE FUN!” To give advice specifically to drummers or percussionists, I could write a book. But for everyone out there, I have some advice that I will pass along. My grandfather gave me perhaps the best advice of my life. He said “Do what you love to do, do it as best you can, and then find a way to make a living doing it. If you can to that, you have succeeded and will never work another day in your life.” When I asked Vic Firth, owner of Vic Firth sticks and Boston Symphony Timpanist for 50 years, what he owed his success to, he said “That’s simple… Perseverance.” “

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Abby Smith

Southern Miss

Abby Smith is a Freshman Broadcast Journalism major. She is a recent graduate of Sacred Heart High School and has spent her whole life in Hattiesburg, MS, but hopes to one day move to a big city and pursue a career in Journalism. Abby loves photography, traveling, running, and the outdoors.
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