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Faces of FSC: Dr. Jo Jossim

Oct 6, 2023

Jo Jossim, a name synonymous with dedication and excellence in music education, recently achieved a remarkable milestone by becoming the first woman to be inducted into the Florida Bandmaster's Association's prestigious Roll of Distinction. 

Her journey as an educator and musician is a testament to her passion, perseverance, and unwavering commitment to the art of music.

As we sat down with Dr. Jossim to delve into her inspiring story, she shared the pivotal moments and motivations that have guided her path.

Finding Her Passion

Jossim's journey into the world of music was set in motion by her mother's insistence on musical involvement. Her older sister had been a studious clarinet player, so, at ten, their mother placed a clarinet in Jo's hands two years before she would join ‘beginning band.’ 

"My older sister played the clarinet, and she was a typical overachiever, first chair All-County Band, made the auditioned All-State Bands all through high school — your typical nightmare for a younger sister trying to keep up," Dr. Jossim joked.

It was during a practice session though, in the solitude of her room, that lightning struck. Jossim vividly remembers the moment when she played a passage from a method book, and something profound moved inside her — an aesthetic response to the emotional power of music. In that instant, she realized that music had the unparalleled ability to evoke deep, indescribable emotions, and it became a personal sanctuary where she could connect with herself on a profound level.

"I could feel things I had no ability to describe, and it was deeply personal. Walking around as a 10-year-old, I was like any other kid. But with the clarinet, I could feel the world inside me- and it was all just for me," she explained.

Jo had found her passion.

Two years later, Jo's mother saw potential in her as an oboe player, and the clarinet was traded for an oboe. After beginning band, she received oboe lessons and never looked back. Music had captured her heart and soul, becoming a lifelong companion.

Defying Expectations

Dr. Jossim's journey took an unexpected turn while pursuing a master's degree in oboe performance at the University of Denver. While searching for an elective course, she stumbled upon Conducting and decided to try it. However, gaining permission to enroll in the class took work, as the conducting professor questioned her ability, being primarily an oboe player. Jossim impressed the professor by demonstrating her skills and was granted entry. Little did she know that this decision would be life-changing.

During the final assignment of the class, where students were tasked with conducting a piece with the university wind ensemble, Jossim found herself conducting "Propaglia" by Robert Linn. What followed was beyond her expectations. Impressed by her skill and passion, the group erupted in applause, giving her a standing ovation and affectionately calling her "maestro." 

It was a pivotal moment that expanded Jo's vision of herself; she had discovered her calling as a conductor.

Dr. Jossim conducts FSC's Wind Ensemble and Symphony Band

Words of Wisdom for Aspiring Music Educators

Dr. Jossim firmly believes that music education contributes significantly to the holistic growth of students. Music activates both sides of the brain, encompassing elements of science, math, art, but also emotion. 

"What it is like to be human is realized through music — you experience feeling rather than gaining information... There are music philosophers who are better about describing this experience, but I have lived it, and it is life-changing," she affirms.

She also offers valuable words of wisdom for aspiring music educators who hope to share the transformative experience of the art form with their students, emphasizing the importance of hard work and time management, clarifying that "playing the music" is not synonymous with "playtime." 

"Music-making requires dedication and discipline," she says, "but the rewards are immeasurable."

Jossim advises aspiring educators to be prepared for moments of doubt and uncertainty in their careers, understanding that these are part of the journey. She also encourages educators to surround themselves and their students with good music, just as a balanced diet is essential for physical well-being. Her advice underscores music's profound impact on self-knowledge, personal development, and human insight.

The Greatest Gift a Teacher Can Give: Opportunities

Deeply committed to music education, Dr. Jossim organizes the Florida Southern College Band Camp annually — a immersive summer program for grades 7-12 students from all over the state. She believes in providing musical opportunities to encourage young musicians to continue playing their instruments throughout the summer.

Additionally, she heads a music commissioning program through Phi Beta Mu, an international bandmasters' fraternity. This program focuses on commissioning new music for concert bands, expanding the repertoire for wind bands, and contributing to the vibrant world of music, which Jossim finds "exciting."

When asked about her thoughts and emotions upon becoming the first woman to be inducted into the Florida Bandmaster's Association's Roll of Distinction, she expressed deep gratitude for the recognition. She also reflected on the significance of being the first woman recognized in this esteemed group. She hopes that her inclusion will inspire future generations of young women to pursue their dreams in music education.

In closing, Dr. Jossim shared a heartwarming story about a student who had auditioned with reservations but went on to become a dedicated musician. The student's words of gratitude for the opportunity Jo had given her resonated deeply. Jossim realized that she, too, owed her career to the chances others had given her. 

"So that is why I am here today; many times in my life, people … gave me a chance. We may not always see the results of those chances, but I hope never to underestimate [a student's] potential."

With that realization, Jo Jossim continues her journey, never underestimating the power of granting opportunities to aspiring musicians, just as she had once been given a chance to follow her passion for music.

Jo Jossim takes a bow onstage.

Photo credit: Richard Ross, FSC Dad