Ana Maria Fights
Sex Discrimination in Education

Ana Maria’s Journey from A Passion for Music To a Passion for Social Justice


At the tender age of 18, Ana Maria Rosato had already experienced the pain that outright sex discrimination inflicts on its prey, but also demonstrated the first signs of her willingness to forthrightly challenge the status quo, much as she is doing now.


Ana Maria comes from a long line of family musicians. Santo V. Rosato, her father, played music on Bourbon Street with New Orleans jazz greats Pete Fountain and Al Hirt. Her paternal grandfather, Prof. Joseph (Guiseppe) Rosato was a music professor at Tulane University.


In 1945, her Uncle Frank Rosato conducted the “156th Infantry Band, a regimental band from Louisiana, [that] brought a New Orleans flair to one of the most influential postwar moments in Europe, when [it was] selected to provide the musical backdrop for the Potsdam Conference as the ‘house band’ at the Little White House.”  The Army Band perform[ed] from July 17 – August 2, 1945 at the Allied summit at Potsdam. 

CWO Frank Rosato conducting three 156th Infantry musicians playing saxophones and bass.

[Ana Maria’s uncle] “Chief Warrant Officer  Frank Rosato conducting three 156th Infantry musicians playing saxophones and bass. Personal caption on photo reverse: “Rosato. L.R. – Sgt Kieffer, Pfc. Krolow, Pfc. Labruno on bass, and CWO Rosato.” Gift of Mr. Frank Rosato, Jr., 2013.590.045 | From the WW2 Museum website from an article titled The 156th Infantry Band, the Potsdam Conference House Band.]

Drum Major Ana Maria Rosato conducting the Saint Stanislaus marching band during a high school football game.

Drum Major Ana Maria Rosato stands on the bleachers to conduct the St. Stanislaus High School Marching Band. Photo from Facebook group SSC Band Alumni. Fall 1976.


Hardly surprising when Ana Maria attended the University of Southern Mississippi focused on continuing the family tradition of centering her life on music. Having been the drum major and student conductor of her high school band, she set her sights on becoming the drum major of the 400 plus Southern Pride Marching Band at the University of Southern Mississippi, which she had long admired. 

When she asked about drum major tryouts, she was told that the music department was perfectly happy with the drum major it had—a young, white male, of course. In lieu of trying out for drum major, the department offered her an opportunity to try out for the all-female flag corps.

While she admired her friends in the flag corps, she wondered whether that alternative would have been offered to a male asking for open tryouts for drum major.


After 18 months of going up and down the bureaucratic chain of command inside of the College of Fine Arts, Ana Maria finally marched into the Office of Dean of Academic Affairs, Dr. Charlie Mormon, who was a gruff speaking man from Boston.


Dr. Mormon peered at the petite woman sitting on the other side of his large desk. He barked, “Do you have an attorney?!”


The diminutive firebrand of a student daring to request that the university comply with Title IX of the Education Amendments that prohibited sex discrimination in an academic institutions, replied. “What does it matter if I have an attorney?” 

Lawyered Up and Ready!

Dr. Mormon barked louder, “Do you have an attorney?!” to which she replied, “Of course, I have an attorney.” There is nothing like the power of being lawyered up and prepared.


Dr. Mormon got on his intercom and shouted an order at some administrator to get in his office that second. When the man showed up, Dr. Mormon ordered him to direct the music department to hold tryouts. Within a matter of weeks, three students tried out for drum major in March 1979.   

Now back in 1979, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 still had substantial legal teeth that could mean losing federal monies not just in the specific program of a department found guilty of sex discrimination but also throughout the university.

Additionally, the news could generate a great deal of bad publicity. These are the factors that forced the university to open its drum major tryouts. Fear of any of these was potent – even in South Mississippi at that time.


Though Ana Maria “came in fourth out of the three” as she likes to say, she knows that her courage and persistence opened up doors through which a number of young women have since been able to walk.


“The one who busts down the doors of injustice may not always be the one who gets to walk through it,” she recalls her mother telling her.  


One of the big takeaways from this devastating

Photos from personal collection and Facebook group SSC Band Alumni.

 experience with rampant sexism, Ana Maria says is that “Everyday I walk through doors that women and men of all backgrounds have busted down so that I and others can have opportunities that we have today: education, money, property, credit, birth control, abortion, freedom of religion, freedom to marry – or not marry – whomever we please, to name but a few.”

And just like that, Ana Maria’s life path changed forever.

Even though this ordeal hurt like heck down to the very core of her soul, it taught her a valuable life lesson: never take injustice lying down, because with persistence and good strategy, justice can prevail creating a more just society for everyone. Over the subsequent years, the university has had a number of female drum majors. These young women received the scholarship, professional recognition, and networking opportunities attendant with the position.   


By far, this experience shaped Ana Maria as no other in her life has. Her passion for music gave way to her passion for justice. That passion still flows through her veins to this very day. Most definitely, Ana Maria had intended to be a trailblazer within the field of music.


Instead, Ana Maria channeled her passion for music and a desire to  blaze trails inside the music field into a passion for opening political and legal doors to blaze trails that help America keep its promise of liberty and justice for all.