Sixteen years after the start of his teaching career, David Moskowitz is still writing, playing music and learning more about his field.
Moskowitz, a professor of musicology, has been at USD for 16 years. Raised in Pittsburgh, PA, he earned his bachelor’s and master’s at the University of Ohio. He then earned his doctorate at the University of Kansas.
Moskowitz said he grew up in a musical household, which encouraged both him and his sister to become musicians.
“My dad was big on classical music so whenever he was not at work, he was playing music in the house,” Moskowitz said. “We started like most people, we did two years of piano lessons and then he let us branch out from there. I ended up playing the violin and it went from there.”
While at Ohio University, Moskowitz got into teaching, because he knew he didn’t want to be a competitive violinist. He also knew that he liked to talk about music all the time.
“I realized that, with the right training, somebody would pay me to do that so I thought that was a pretty good fit,” he said. “This is my 16th year and I enjoy teaching as much as I did when I started here. Probably more so because I feel like I’ve gotten better at it.”
In the classroom
Moskowitz teaches Music Appreciation: Rock and Roll, a music history survey for junior-level music majors and a graduate student music history sequence.
“For me, the whole getting paid to do what you’d be doing anyway is a big part of it. I also like the freshness of constantly having new students,” he said.
Miranda Ebach, a junior biology major currently taking his rock and roll class, said she likes how knowledgeable and passionate Moskowitz is about what he teaches.
“I mean, he can talk about certain bands and songs and then all of a sudden he talks about references they did when he was growing up,” Ebach said. “He can really make those connections between what they did and what they were remembered for. It makes it a lot more interesting because you are able to be a lot more engaged
Ebach said she thinks USD is lucky to have Moskowitz as a professor.
“He’s so talkative, he plays music and he gives examples to the kind of songs we’re listening to and that’s why I like it,” Ebach said. “Even when people ask me today if they should take rock and roll, I’m like, ‘Yeah take it! I’m in it right now but you’ll definitely like it!’”
Dana Carlson, a second-year graduate student majoring in vocal performance, has had three semesters of classes with Moskowitz and was his assistant last year.
“He is extremely knowledgeable about his discipline yet he is still constantly seeking out new answers for us,” Carlson said. “He’s very hardworking, I feel like he goes above and beyond. He really cares about his students. He not only asks you about your progress in his class, but he’ll also ask you about your outside activities.”
Carlson said Moskowitz is a great role model for future teachers.
“A lot of us here are studying performance specializations,” Carlson said. “So, for me, I’m hoping to go out and perform, but eventually I want to end up teaching at a university. I feel like the most important thing I’ve learned (from Moskowitz) is how to be a great professor.”
Moskowitz said he likes his students because of their different perspectives.
“I’m twice as old as they are, so for me, the whole notion of them teaching me as I teach them, I think that’s an important part of it,” Moskowitz said. “That’s why I try to engage them in as much discussion as I can. If they can’t teach me anything, then I can’t relate to them. The whole idea is finding some sort of common ground in order to really be able to reach them. As a result, I want to be able to learn about them, too.”
Moskowitz has done most of his writing on Caribbean popular music, specifically reggae. He’s written two books on Bob Marley and an encyclopedia on popular music styles from the Caribbean.
“I find it extremely interesting,” Moskowitz said. “It was a type of music that I didn’t know anything about until college, so I was late to learning about reggae music, but since I got into it, it’s something I listen to all the time. For me, it’s extremely interesting and the lyrics are always engaging.”
Moskowitz wrote his dissertation on Bob Marley and even lived in Jamaica for four weeks while working in Marley’s old house that was converted into a museum.
He said during the course of writing that, he realized it was something he wanted to continue doing. When he got to USD he started “shopping around the notion” of rewriting his dissertation as a book.
Moskowitz also wrote a book on Jimi Hendrix that follows along the same course as the Marley book.
“I’m a Hendrix listener. I have all of his records, but I didn’t know much about his life and I wanted to learn more,” Moskowitz said. “I had a sabbatical for a semester and I wrote 80,000 words on his life. I went out to Seattle to visit places about his life, like the museum out there that has stuff dedicated to him all the time on display.”
A musical future
Moskowitz said the advice he would give anyone is to not be afraid to try out new styles of music as they come along.
“Something that is an easy trap to fall into is saying ‘I only like a certain type of music’ and then only listening to it and you kind of shut off the rest of the music that comes out,” he said. “I was guilty of that when I moved from Pittsburgh to Ohio. Because I grew up in the city, I was like, ‘I don’t like country music, I don’t get it.’ Then I moved to Ohio and I learned a bunch of country music that I did like.”
Moskowitz said he continues to teach because of all he’s able to do through his job.
“When you go into teaching as a profession, you should be inquisitive about your own field and I still am,” he said. “I actually have more questions than answers, still, after doing this for quite a long time.”
Moskowitz said the students are what keeps him at USD.
“They’re always teaching me something, it’s not just working with the same group of people every day,” he said. “Because of that constant new set of students that are always coming along, I feel like it keeps things fresh.”