Band Clinic & Where Are They Now? – Nathan Pepper

MAIS Band Clinic is an intense three-day experience which occurs annually and allows band students to sharpen their musical skills; it was held January 10 – 12 at Hinds Community College in Raymond. Students learned new techniques, which they then applied to challenging musical pieces after trying out for and being placed in one of two ensembles. They practiced for two days, and then, on the final day of Clinic, they performed in a concert held in Cain Cochran Hall.

This year’s Clinic featured 133 participants from seven schools across the state. Representing Hillcrest were the following: Micah Parkinson, Jesse Fountain, Phillip Hutchins, Talayeh Jones, Jared Bewley, Sarah Grace Brownlee, Danielle Wallace, Sancenia Johnson, Reece Hill, Trinity Amos, Brandon Thomason, Maddy Hughes, Josh Canoy, Alex Howell, Braxton Lewis, and Caitlyn McNamee.

One of the clinicians for this year’s event was a Hillcrest alumnus. Nathan Pepper is a graduate of Hillcrest’s Class of 1999; he was a member of the Cougar Band (prior to our band being named One Spirit, One Sound), participated in All-State Lion’s Band two years in a row, and was voted, “Most Talented” during his senior year. After earning both his Bachelor and Master’s degrees in Music Education from the University of Southern Mississippi, Mr. Pepper began his teaching career. He started working with the Ocean Springs High School band in 2006, and he is currently serving as Assistant Band Director for the “Blue-Grey Pride,” Director the OSHS Symphonic and Jazz Bands, and instructor for the 6th-grade low brass. He still enjoys playing trombone with First Baptist Church in Gulfport, the Coast Big Band, the Entertainment Cartel, and the Gulf Coast Symphony Orchestra. Mr. Pepper is a member of various professional music organizations and an active band clinician as well. He and his wife of thirteen years, Brandy, have two daughters, Olivia and Abigail.

Where Are They Now? – David Franklin

David Franklin attended Hillcrest for 13 years, beginning in 5-year-old kindergarten in 2000 and continuing through 12th grade, graduating as part of the Class of 2013. “Big Dave,” as he was known around campus, states, “I was not a sports guy,” but he was active on campus and well-known among his peers. First, David joined the One Spirit, One Sound band as a sixth grader, and he served as drum major during his senior year. (He even wore a kilt for the show!) He further served as Senior Class President, as the Youth and Government Club President, President Pro-Tempore for Mississippi Youth Legislature, and Honor Society Vice President for MAIS during his senior year. These leadership roles, along with several others, led to his being inducted into the Hillcrest Hall of Fame upon graduation.

After leaving HCS, he attended Mississippi College, graduating in 2017 with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration. During those years at MC, he was an active member of the Baptist Student Union, which led to his spending a summer in Greece, serving as a Humanitarian Intern/Summer Missionary. David now works in sales at Taylor Power Systems in Clinton. He recently became engaged to Abby Hicks, whom he met at Mississippi College, and they will be married in March.

David’s best advice for current Hillcrest students is, “Find your strengths, and use them to your advantage, but also be just as aware — or more aware — of your weaknesses.” He states that “knowing where you fall short helps you identify areas in which you can strive for better results. This, in turn, will make you a stronger and more well-rounded individual in the long run.” Finally, he encourages HCS students not to “be afraid of not knowing how to do something, because then your learning will never cease.”

Where Are They Now? – Jesse Bingham, Miss Mississippi College

Jesse Bingham, Valedictorian of the Class of 2014, took the title of first runner-up at the Miss Mississippi College Pageant in February of this year. After putting in a great deal of hard work to become Miss MC, she was disappointed in coming so close to achieving her goal; but when the pageant’s winner made the decision to transfer to another university, Jesse inherited the title of reigning Miss Mississippi College 2017.

During her time as Miss MC, Jesse will be a university ambassador; she has served as a Welcome Week student leader, plays a visible role and greets fans at all Choctaws football games, and she recently rode in the college’s Homecoming Parade, among other duties.

Congratulations on your accomplishment, Jesse!

Where Are They Now? – Alana Price

Congratulations to Class of 2017 graduate and “Spirit of HCS” award winner Alana Price!  The freshman history and education major has been accepted into an honors class for social and behavioral sciences at Holmes Community College.

In her social media post about this impressive achievement, Alana stated, “They only take 30 people!!! #thanksHCS.”  We were happy to be part of your educational experience, Alana, and we love our Cougar alumni!

Where Are They Now? – Meredith Parker

Meredith Parker, a graduate of the Class of 2013, was one of Hillcrest’s most active students during her 14 years as a Cougar, trying her hand (and succeeding) at seemingly every activity offered. Not only was she in the top 5 percent of her class academically, Meredith was a cheerleader, a member of the Envirothon and Quiz Bowl teams, a Student Council officer, President of both Honor Society and the Student Body, a participant in Youth Legislature, and more.  Her achievements were recognized and rewarded during her senior year when she was elected as Most Likely to Succeed by her peers, selected as Hillcrest’s recipient of the Wendy’s High School Heisman Award, AND chosen by the faculty and administration to be a member of the Hillcrest Hall of Fame. These accomplishments led to her receiving a scholarship to Ole Miss, where she graduated Cum Laude this past May with a degree in Broadcast Journalism and English.

During her time in college, Meredith worked as a reporter and producer at NewsWatch Ole Miss, and wrote for both the Meek School Magazine and the Daily Mississippian.  She also interned at the CNN Center in Atlanta, Georgia, with HLN’s Weekend Express.  Parker may be most recognizable, however, as one of the newest faces to join 16 WAPT News, where she is a morning and weekend reporter covering Jackson and Central Mississippi.

The message Meredith has for current HCS students is a quote which she says has stuck with her “for a while now: ‘You can grow up to be anything, so grow up to be happy and kind.'”