The WiMN’s Front and Center is a weekly column that showcases accomplished women who work in the music and audio industries. We spotlight successful female performers, manufacturers, retailers, educators, managers, publicists, and everyone else in between. Want to be featured? Learn how here.
Front and Center: Executive Director of Bob Moog Foundation, Michelle Moog-Koussa
By Lina Bhambhani
Michelle Moog-Koussa is the Executive Director of the Bob Moog Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving the life and legacy of her father, Robert Moog, the inventor of the Moog Synthesizer.
Born in 1968 and raised in New York, Moog-Koussa has always had an interest in her father’s work. She recently led a presentation at Winter NAMM titled “Insights Into An Innovator: Bob Moog,” based on materials recently uncovered in the Moog family’s archive of historical materials. The presentation showcased several photos and documents – many that had never been shared publicly.
“[It was] only fitting to reveal much of this material for the first time among the industry that played such an integral part in the Moog legacy,” she said.
The WiMN got a chance to connect with Moog-Koussa, and you can discover more about her and the Bob Moog Foundation in the interview below. For more information, visit moogfoundation.org.
WiMN: How did the Bob Moog Foundation come about, and what is the organization’s mission?
MM: The genesis of the Bob Moog Foundation can be found in the extraordinary outpouring of support that the family received during my father’s illness and passing. Thousands of people from all over the world sent testimonials about how Bob Moog, the instruments he created, and the music that came from those instruments changed, and in some cases transformed, their lives. We knew at that point that this legacy of inspiration deserved to be carried forward to future generations.
Our mission is to ignite creativity at the intersection of science, music, and innovation by providing interactive educational experiences to children and adults. Through these experiences, we help foster a sense of discovery and creative thinking.
WiMN: Tell us about the presentation you led at Winter NAMM that showcased many never-before-seen documents. How these materials were uncovered? What was that like for you?
MM: I was fortunate to give a TEC Talk presentation at Winter NAMM called “Insights Into An Innovator.” During the presentation, I shared 25 new letters, documents and photos from the Moog Family Archives, a collection of historical materials that was recently gifted to me by my mother, Shirleigh Moog. I focused on three relatives who were of particular influence in my father’s life, and on his early years, from birth to age 18. His intense interest in science, music, and electricity surfaced at a very young age and it’s fascinating to watch that develop in his own words through some of his earliest letters.
The presentation was standing room only, with a line at the door. It was wonderful to see people’s interest in understanding Bob Moog the person, and not just the icon. I was most touched by people’s reactions after the presentation as many told me that they felt they had a much better understanding of who Bob really was. That is deeply important to me, as he’s often portrayed in a very surface oriented way that does not lend a understanding to his true nature.
WiMN: Can you tell us about some of the initiatives spearheaded by the foundation?
MM: The Bob Moog Foundation has two major projects that we’re focusing on right now. First is our hallmark educational project, Dr. Bob’s SoundSchool, through which we teach children about the science of sound through music and technology. We’ve provided this innovative, experiential curriculum to over 7,000 children since it started five years ago. Our other project is the preservation of the Bob Moog Foundation Archives, a vast collection of documents, photos, schematics, notes and other memorabilia that trace Bob’s work, and the history of electronic music.
WiMN: Tell us about some of your favorite artists that have used Moog Synthesizers over the years.
MM: It’s very hard to identify favorites, but what appeals to me is creative and unusual applications of the synthesizer, whether it be with the technology itself, or how the instrument is used amongst other instruments.
WiMN: Can you share one little-known fact about your father that you wish more people knew?
MM: My dad loved to garden. He found great solace in nature and found a particular joy in growing things from the earth. I’ve often thought that the unique organic quality of his instruments was essentially a sonic mirror of the natural world.
WiMN: Tell us about your experience as a woman in the music industry. Have there been any challenges? If so, how did you overcome them?
MM: While I am deeply fortunate to have a wealth of support from the music industry, it’s often been a challenge for me to be taken as seriously work my work demands. Somehow nice, compassionate woman in this industry immediately get labeled as “sweet,” lacking in substance. I’ve definitely found that a hardened exterior has been a necessary part of doing business in this industry.
WiMN: Can you share some advice for women looking to start a career in M.I.?
MM: You have to be completely committed, passionate, and driven to even begin to succeed in this industry. Don’t give up, and use your network to the fullest extent possible.
WiMN: What’s next for you and the Bob Moog Foundation?
MM: The Foundation is working to scale Dr. Bob’s SoundSchool so that we can inspire children nationwide through the wonders of science. We hope to collaborate with large school districts in the Los Angeles area in the next year or so. Our work with the Bob Moog Foundation Archives is ongoing. We continue to receive new items every year and our focus is to catalog our entire collection and share it with museums, research facilities, and the general public. History is a great source not only for knowledge, but for inspiration. We aim to inspire as many people as we can.