ITTA BENA, Miss.—In middle school, Devanon Fitzgerald saw a future for himself as a football player. That all changed when he attended Trezevant High School in Memphis, where he met teacher and band director Dr. Kerry Simon.
Simon opened his eyes to the world of music and band, and the rest is history.
Today, Fitzgerald has reunited with his mentor and former teacher as the new associate band director of Mississippi Valley State University’s Mean Green Marching Machine.
When Simon was hired as the first female band director in the history of MVSU and the Southwestern Athletic Conference, it opened the door for her to fill the position of associate band director that she had previously held for two years.
“I have known Mr. Fitzgerald for over 20 years. I have watched him develop as a musician and rise through the ranks in the band world. I do not doubt that Mr. Fitzgerald will be an asset to our band program and our University,” said Simon.
“Mr. Fitzgerald is known throughout the band world as an amazing music educator. He is also known for building great band programs. In my opinion, he is what we need to help elevate our program,” Simon added.
Fitzgerald said that receiving the opportunity to work with Simon on the collegiate level is a dream come true.
“Becoming a collegiate band director has always been a dream, and I am honored to have this position,” said Fitzgerald.
He credits Simon for igniting his interest in a music career.
“It was in the ninth grade when I decided I would become a band director following a conversation with Dr. Simon,” he said. “Dr. Simon asked me if I could ‘make a career that is a hobby and be paid for it what would it be?’ and I said I could do this (band) all my life.”
Another dream for Fitzgerald was to attend Tennessee State University. He accomplished that goal and upon graduating returned to Memphis to work in the school system.
Fitzgerald’s passion for band is evident and his desire to help students develop is something that drives him each day.
“I love seeing a student who comes in with no skills grow from not truly understanding an instrument to becoming almost perfect with their instrument,” he shared.
As an instructor, Fitzgerald said he feels that it is vital to get on a personal level with students and meet them where they are so that he can pull the most out of them.
“I believe you have to understand the personality of the student so that you can help them blossom into the best musician they can be,” he said.
Before coming to Valley, Fitzgerald served as the band director at Whitehaven High School in Memphis. He has also worked at Craigmont High School and Hamilton High School as a band director.
He received his Bachelor of Science degree in Music Education from TSU. He has a master’s degree in Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment from Walden University. He has an Educational Specialist Degree in Educational Leadership, and currently, he is enrolled at the University of Florida for a Master of Music in Music Education. He also plans to obtain his doctorate from the University of Florida.
Fitzgerald is a member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. and Phi Mu Alpha.
He is married to Jessica, and together, they have three children, Jordan (10), Jayden (7) and Joshua (4).
“I am so thankful to my wife for allowing me to live my dream, putting up with me for the past 16 years, and transitioning with me in this new endeavor,” he said.