Dr. Bruce Moss named Music Educator of the Year

BGSU professor, director of band activities has excelled at University for 23 years

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By Marie Dunn-Harris '95

Ask any BGSU music student, past or present, who Dr. Bruce Moss is and chances are you will hear nothing but praise and admiration. 

Moss, a professor and the director of band activities for 23 years in Bowling Green State University’s College of Musical Arts, was named Ohio Music Education Association's (OMEA) 2017 Most Outstanding Educator of the Year. 

The award recognizes and honors an OMEA member each year for his or her outstanding service, dedication and overall contribution to music education. The finalists need at least six nomination letters to be considered for the honor, and Dr. Moss had 65. 

"I was surprised and humbled beyond words when seeing the long list of names of former students and peers from all over the country who wrote letters on my behalf," Moss said. 

The list of people who nominated Moss is impressive. Some are former colleagues, but many are students who have gone on to pursue successful music careers. One of them is U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Ryan Nowlin, assistant director of "The President's Own" U.S. Marine Band. Nowlin studied with Moss for his undergraduate and graduate degrees. 

In his letter, Nowlin said, "Dr. Moss's selfless commitment to students, stalwart advocacy for music education, personal and professional integrity, genuine care and concern for student growth, development and success, and his high level of musicianship make him a role model, mentor and tireless devotee to all fortunate enough to study under his baton." 

Another world-class musician and nominator is John Hagstrom, a trumpet student of Moss when he taught public school. He now performs in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.  

“As I look back at the most important influences on my early development it is clear to me that Bruce Moss was crucially important for my tenacity and honest improvement despite many obstacles,” Hagstrom said. “His focus on quality and finding solutions models a strategic mind-set that I have emulated along with many of his other successful students. 

“That Bruce Moss is an outstanding music educator is well documented by the outstanding results he has achieved with several generations of students, and this is because he himself personifies the courage and commitment of a mature and educated person. I am only one of so many students who have been blessed by his influence.”

“That Bruce Moss is an outstanding music educator is well documented by the outstanding results he has achieved with several generations of students, and this is because he himself personifies the courage and commitment of a mature and educated person. I am only one of so many students who have been blessed by his influence.”

To Moss, seeing students realize their personal and professional goals has been a rewarding experience unto itself.

“To be in the audience when a former student is on stage performing with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, or on the podium conducting the U.S. Marine Band brings remarkable joy,” Moss said. “I wouldn’t trade that joy for any amount of money; you can’t put a price tag on it.”

Moss grew up in Tennessee, and music has been a part of his life since elementary school when he learned how to play the trumpet. He went on to receive his bachelor's degree at the University of Illinois and taught at the high school level for 11 years before deciding to get his doctorate at Ohio State University. From there, he taught at St. Cloud State in Minnesota and at Eastern Illinois before coming to BGSU in 1994.  

Dr. Carol Hayward, the former director of the BGSU Falcon Marching Band, worked closely with Moss for 12 years. The Falcon Marching Band is the biggest student organization on campus and consists of both music and non-music majors. One of the many of Moss’ characteristics described by Hayward is his willingness to give the same attention and support to the non-music majors. 

"I think in some ways it's more important for people who don't go into music as a career, so they can pass it on to their own children," Moss said. 

Besides his regular duties as BGSU's director of bands, Moss keeps busy with numerous activities outside of the classroom. He frequently serves as guest conductor at universities nationwide, he's an elected and current member of the Board of Directors of the American Bandmasters Association, and has served as president of College Band Directors National Association, North Central Division.  

At 37 years, Moss has the longest running tenure as music director of the acclaimed Wheaton Band in Illinois, which performs during the summer months. The professional group was featured in a PBS documentary on the life of John Philip Sousa, and has become a model for community ensembles nationwide.  

" I have received much joy in observing their growth and popularity with audiences over the years," Moss said. 

Moss also recently took over conducting the Toledo Symphony Concert Band's “Music Under the Stars” series each July at the Toledo Zoo, a post held by the late Sam Szor for more than 50 years.  

When he's not directing the Wheaton or Toledo Symphony concert bands, every other summer Moss serves as music director for the Ohio Ambassadors of Music. The program takes honors music students on tour through several European countries over a two-and-a-half-week period. 

One of his former BGSU students recently served on the staff for that tour. 

"The most powerful characteristic of Bruce Moss that personifies him as an educator is his devotion to bringing joy to those around him," Adam Landry said.  

Landry, who is now the director of choirs for Mentor (Ohio) High School, described in his nomination letter how Moss surprised him with a stop at Abbey Road Studios while in England after mentioning that he was a Beatles fan. 

"We all tried to replicate the famous Beatles pose crossing the road," Landry said. "This is just one story of many where Dr. Moss went out of his way to find something unique about me to highlight that he really cared." 

BGSU alumnus David Babich, who serves in the U.S. Navy Band in Washington recalls Moss as being fun, firm and demanding in rehearsals. Babich especially liked the guest conductors and composers Moss brought in to give the future music educators something to take away from rehearsals.  

"Looking back, I'm so thankful he was thinking of his band students and wanted to expose us to living band legends to give us inspiration and knowledge," Babich said. 

Moss' current colleagues recognize and appreciate his teaching style.  

"As a significant member of the teacher training team at BGSU, Moss has prepared future teachers who in turn touched the lives of many young students in Ohio and around the nation," said Dr. Richard Kennell, former dean of the College of Musical Arts. 

"Dr. Moss shows by example the importance of caring about students as individuals, being dedicated to fostering their musical growth, achieving and maintaining high standards for themselves and students, being exceptionally well prepared for rehearsals and classes, and encouraging students to reach further than they believe they can," said Dr. Vincent Kantorski, who is retired as a master teacher at BGSU. 

Moss is not one to self-promote. When asked what he thinks about all of those who look up to him for his work in music education, he's quick to give credit to others — especially those who inspired him. 

"I had teachers along the way who were very influential," Moss said. "I wouldn't be doing this today if I did not have those teachers that I can go back and thank."  

He is also inspired by the students he teaches and knows that what he's doing every day will somehow pay off in their future. 

"The drive to continue teaching for me is not about self-promotion and awards," Moss said. "I am more grateful by the potential impact on students over their lives.

Moss accepted the 2017 Most Outstanding Music Educator Award on Feb. 3 during OMEA's annual conference in Cleveland. 

Coincidentally, the OMEA's 2017 Most Outstanding Young Music Educator Award was awarded to John Carmack, who is a BGSU alumnus. Carmack currently serves as the choir director at Vermilion High School. It's the third year the award has been given, and, each time, the recipient has been a graduate of BGSU.