Interviewed by Leslie Criss | Photographed by Joe Worthem
Music’s been a part of Jiwon Lee’s life for as long as she can remember. Born in Daejeon, Korea, Jiwon became a resident of Oxford shortly after her birth when her parents left Korea to study at Ole Miss. After her father graduated, the family returned to Korea for a decade, moving back to Oxford when Jiwon entered ninth grade at Oxford High School. After graduation, she attended Ole Miss to study music. Her first two years, she played piccolo in the Pride of the South marching band; her final two years, she was the drum major. As a graduate student, Jiwon worked as graduate assistant for the band, continued to play in the Ole Miss Wind Ensemble and was principal flutist and violinist in the L-O-U Symphony. A lot of people might recognize Jiwon as the national anthem performer for Ole Miss Athletics. She graduated in May with a master’s degree in music education, violin and flute performance. She recently accepted a job as assistant band director at Homewood High School in Alabama.
Q: What instruments do you play?
A: I majored in flute and violin, but I actually started on piano when I was 4 or 5. Of course, I played recorder and melodica in school, too, but I learned Gayageum, a Korean zither, because my parents wanted to make sure I could play a Korean instrument. Along with Gayageum, I learned Danso, a Korean flute, in school. Throughout college, I took various method courses where we had to learn different instruments to be able to teach students. I learned how to play oboe, trumpet, French horn, and percussion through these courses.
Q: Were you a member of the marching band at Oxford High School?
A: I was. I had no thoughts of joining the band, but the band director then, Mr. Len Killough, persuaded me every day during my orchestra class that marching band is fun and exciting. I told him I was not familiar with the concept other than military parade bands I watched growing up in Korea. He encouraged me to consider it, and I joined the band and played flute.
Q: What exactly did you do as drum major for the Pride of the South marching band?
A: The main responsibility of a drum major is conducting the marching band. Drum majors conduct on the field for pregame and halftime shows, and also in the stands while the football game is being played. Outside game day, drum majors conduct rehearsals and assist the directors when needed.
Q: Why is the band’s presence important during a football game?
A: I cannot imagine a football game without a band playing the fight song or stand tunes. Band really drives the game day atmosphere and engages fans on the next level.