Myron Moss, Music Program Director at Drexel University, passed away a year ago on July 2nd, 2012. He was a great man who had a profound impact on my life and I feel compelled to share just a few of my experiences with him to honor his memory.
I remember first sitting under Dr. Myron “Mike” Moss’s baton in the fall of 2007. He had just taken over as the director of Drexel University’s Concert Band. We were a mixed group of about 70 performers, some with very strong backgrounds in music, some with a newfound passion for it, and some who were just happy to be getting college credit to show up for a few hours a week and perform Alfred Reed.
My first impressions of our new leader were admittedly hesitant. He had an extremely quirky sense of humor and a style of conducting that was perhaps best personified by the motion of his hair. Typically, he wore it in a somewhat relaxed, yet dignified version of slicked-back, but the moment he stepped onto the podium it would fly up in a manner only rivaled by Albert Einstein. It was not long before these qualities became endearing attributes of a lively and passionate character.
Performing for him brought a unique brand of joy to his face that you couldn’t help but reciprocate. His energy and focus made every member of the ensemble intimately aware of their contribution, even during the most boring passages of French horn upbeats. But his educational prowess was not restricted to the hour and a half rehearsals twice a week. He would record and listen back to every single rehearsal in an effort to continually improve himself and the band. He met with many students on a weekly basis for free private lessons, which certainly wasn’t in his contract. He started chamber groups that included both students and faculty members to help the band members rise to the performance levels of their teachers. He booked a special concert at the Kimmel Center to prove to the band that they could perform at the highest level. He was truly willing to do whatever it took to help inspire these young musicians.
And concert band was a good start, but I got to know Dr. Moss even better in music history class. This was a class populated by students in the Music Industry major, most of who’s knowledge of classical music stops at the melody from Beethoven’s Fifth. It was Dr. Moss’s job to make classical music history relevant and interesting to all of these students, if only for the six months of their life that this class occupied. His passion and tenacity as an educator were again apparent, but one moment in particular stuck out to me. We were studying the Rite of Spring by Igor Stravinsky as all music history classes do and Dr. Moss was trying to communicate just how inventive this piece was in its time. “This ballet begins with a sound that no one had ever heard before… ever!… in the entire history of music!” he said. Then he walked around the room with a Grinch-sized smile, physically shaking a few students as he went and saying, “People rioted! Don’t you want to know what that sound is?” It may have been the first time that metal heads, indie rockers, and pop singers were so excited to hear a high bassoon solo, but hopefully not the last.
Then, in the spring of 2008, I really got to experience Dr. Moss’s passion for music education on a personal level. I was a sophomore working towards my degree in Music Industry, which is basically a recording degree; however, I had been developing a great interest in composing more classical music, much more of it. Dr. Moss was an obvious choice by this point to approach about the subject. I asked if he would be willing to help me study a few scores to get off on the right foot. He quickly countered with a weekly meeting time and was visibly filled with a child-like excitement at the opportunity to share his knowledge.
From the very first meeting, he pushed me to work as hard as I could if I was to be serious about composing. Knowledge is power and he wanted to give me every opportunity to succeed. After a few short months, I decided to go headfirst into composition and set a goal of attending a good music conservatory for my graduate degree. Upon deciding this, Dr. Moss did everything in his power to help me realize my dream. He continued to meet with me virtually every week until I graduated nearly 2 years later. He also hired Joseph Hallman, a great Philadelphia composer, as Drexel’s new composition teacher, so that I might have private lessons. And when it came time to prepare my music portfolio, he took on the monumental task of organizing an entire orchestra made of Drexel students and Philadelphia musicians, so that myself and another student could have a recorded reading session. This was a truly herculean effort that included attending several orchestra rehearsals in the Philly area in an attempt to enlist young players, as well as allocating a good portion of the band budget to bring in some talented professionals.
I am proud to say that I did indeed achieve my goal and just finished earning my Master’s degree from the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music. I am positive that this was only possible because of the help of my inspiring teacher, brilliant mentor, and great friend, Dr. Myron Moss. His passion for music, education, and his students was unmatched and should be remembered as such. I will miss him dearly, but I hope that this letter is a comfort to those who knew him and an inspiration to those who did not. Rest in peace, Dr. Moss.