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Department of Music
The University of Mississippi

Music Student Ambassadors

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Parker Peterson

Parker Peterson, Student Ambassador for the Department of Music

Parker excels both in classical music and in the band, and he is pursuing the Bachelor of Music with an emphasis in music education. As an honors student, he is as skilled in writing essays as he is in playing etudes.


Why did you decide to study music?
Music has always been a part of my life. From a young age, I always loved to sing and dance, and I would even tap out notes my grandmother’s piano as early as I could touch the keys. Eventually, I was in band and took piano lessons, and over time I fell in love with music.

Why study music at the University of Mississippi?
From the beginning, the music program at the University of Mississippi felt like home to me. From staff to students, people have always welcomed and accepted me with open arms. As a musician and a person, I have never felt more comfortable in an environment where I am both challenged and loved.

Have you had an experience at UM that made you feel empowered to take a new step in your studies?
I recently auditioned for the UM Wind Ensemble, and I ended up receiving the first-principal saxophone chair. This was a really empowering moment for me – I didn’t really expect to be at the top of the saxophone section – because the saxophonists at the University of Mississippi are phenomenal! I have so much pride and respect for the University of Mississippi’s Wind Ensemble. After receiving this news, I really wanted to become the best ensemble musician that I could be. I practiced every day – for several hours – to refine my saxophone technique, intonation, and tone.

Any particular support or encouragement you have received from a professor?
Once, when I was worried about understanding the material in Music Theory 106, I went to my professor’s office and he helped me understand the material we were learning and reminded me of an extra credit assignment I could do to boost my grade.

The best place to go for support or encouragement in the music department, in my opinion, is to flute professor, Dr. Nave Graham! I took one semester of flute lessons with Dr. Graham, and the lessons were challenging but also encouraging! Although Dr. Graham would remind me to work hard and care about making beautiful tones and intonation. She would always emphasize that my mistakes are not something that should be shamed and that creating music is a learning experience. If you ever get to take a lesson or course with Dr. Graham, she’ll definitely remind you to “Work Hard – or take a break – & Be Kind – and still be kind!”

What is a “light bulb” moment you had in a class or a talk with a professor—when something from a project or class became clear.
When my saxophone professor and academic advisor, Dr. Adam Estes, heard me play a rhythmic etude in my lesson for the week, he had asked me how I felt about my performance of the etude. I analyzed and rated my performance, and I progressively found things that I could correct within what I had played. Then Dr. Estes asked me to play the etude again, and I had fixed the problems he spotted. He said, “I’m not teaching you to make you a better student, I’m teaching you to become your own teacher by giving you the gift of self-sufficiency within your practice as you prepare music.”

What is an especially memorable trip, research, internship, or other school-related but outside the classroom thing you have done?
The most memorable thing I have done is go to Houston, Texas, with the Pride of The South back in 2018. We got to perform in the same stadium as the Super Bowl was held the year before… aka where Lady Gaga had her halftime show in 2017.

In summer of 2019, I travelled with a group of UM saxophonists and professor Adam Estes to Minot, North Dakota where we participated and performed in a saxophone quartet!  At the N. Dakota Chamber Music Festival or DCM we got to hear many great world-class performers and were taught from several collegiate-saxophone professors from all over the country. We attended masterclasses and group lessons during the festival that helped further our saxophone quartet’s sound and technique.  A really cool thing about the festival is that at the end of the festival before the final concert, all of the festival participants got to eat at the Minot State’s Performing Art’s Division chair’s house Erik Anderson. By the end of the festival, we all played advanced quartet music in a grand concert hall at Minot State.

What is your go-to meal in Oxford?
Anything from SoLa or Jinsei. I could definitely eat anything and everything at these two restaurants!

What are you binge watching on Netflix or another platform?
I’m currently re-watching Game of Thrones!

Ontarius Woodland

Headshot of Ontarius Woodland.

Ontarius is earning the Bachelor of Music with an emphasis in music education and vocal concentration. To support his career plans in music education, he is in multiple choral ensembles and also serves as the 2020-2021 UM Gospel Choir Director. During his spare time, you can always find him anywhere singing any choral song that comes to mind or find him looking up gospel songs for UMGC.


Why did you decide to major in music at UM?
I study music here at the University of Mississippi, simply due to the amazing environment. Going from the students to the faculty, everyone is extremely uplifting and respectful towards one another. With well over hundreds of years of teaching skills, I have had the opportunity to work some of the best professors around. Whether it’s an instrumental or a vocal professor, they all want to make you feel at home and remind you that you are never alone. They all push you to do the best you can do, and never let up on you, in terms of challenging you to do your best.

What is your career goal?
My career goal is to one day become one of the best choral conductors in the world! I know that may sound crazy, but with hard work comes great reward, and I am working and will continue to work extremely hard to make this a reality. My goal is also to earn my PhD in Choral Conducting and go on to become a head choral director at a university.

Have you had any memorable experiences beyond the classroom?
The most memorable trip that I have taken part in would be UM Concert Singers trip to Mobile, Al, where we were selected to sing at the 2020 ACDA Southern Division Conference. Although we were turned around and asked to come back to campus due to the outbreak of COVID-19, it was still an amazing experience, as we went back into the choir room and put on our entire performance for ourselves. We proved that even in the worst times, nothing would stop us from sharing our love for music with one another.

Have you had any opportunities for leadership positions at UM?
This year I was selected as the 20-2021 UM Gospel Choir Director. After a lot of hard work that I put into being a part of the choir, I was finally selected to lead such an amazing group.

How have your professors help you succeed at UM?
Once when I was struggling with a few things in Music Theory, my Choir Director, Donald Trott, took the time out of his day to help me with some of the things that I couldn’t quite understand. My studio professor, Bradley Robinson, has also been the greatest help with the solo repertoire that I perform. Whether it’s a missed note, or speaking the language wrong, he is always pushing me and encouraging me to do the best that I can do.

What is your go-to meal in Oxford?
I ALWAYS go with the Chimichanga Sampler from EL Agave.

What are you binge watching?
The Office, All-American, You, and On My Block.

Alexandra Erler

Alexandra Erler, Student Ambassador for the Department of Music

Alexandra is currently pursuing an undergraduate degree in Music Education with an emphasis in Vocal Music. During the school year, you can find Alexandra in multiple choral ensembles such as Women’s Glee, University Chorus, and The UM Concert Singers. During her spare time, Alexandra enjoys taking her dog for walks and reading a good book.


Why did you decide to major in music?
Music has always been my passion growing up. I’ve been singing since I was a toddler, but I didn’t take lessons until high school! Realizing that I could turn my passion into a purpose, by pursuing a career in music education, was the best thing I’ve ever realized! Having an amazing high school choral director and program, I was so inspired by my high school choral director’s determination for equitable and superior success throughout the entire program.

Have professors at UM mentored you?
I have had a variety of UM professors that have mentored me throughout the past four years! My greatest mentor has been my vocal studio professor,  Dr. Jos Milton. He has supported me through my tonsillectomy, the challenges of being a music student during a pandemic, and most of all has shown me that through hard work and determination any musical goal is achievable.

Has UM provided any leadership opportunities?
I have been a choreographer and dance captain for the opera department in the Fall of 2018 and Spring of 2019. I was also honored to be selected into a research program led by Dr. Bradley Robinson [vocal department head] in the Spring of 2020.

What are your post-graduation plans?
I plan to return to UM to get a Master’s degree in  Vocal Music education!

What’s your favorite meal in Oxford?
My favorite meal in Oxford is at Jinsei! I like to start with an appetizer of tempura green beans and grilled edamame… everything on the menu is so good!

What are you binge watching?
So at the moment, I am currently watching the show “Game of Thrones” while I wait for the prequel to be released.