Diane Moser: In Memoriam

Diane Moser: In Memoriam

July 29, 1957 – December 17, 2020

If you spent time with Diane Moser—as a colleague, a student, an audience member, a friend—you quickly discerned that she was passionate and committed to the things that she cared about, and was endlessly curious and always ready to roll up her sleeves. Diane was a founding Board member of “Seed Artists 2.0,” in Montclair, where she played an integral role in helping us bring adventurous music to new audiences. For Eric Dolphy: Freedom of Sound in 2014, she not only composed a new work, “Birdsongs for Eric,” and performed it with her band, she did everything from posting flyers and selling t-shirts to wrangling musicians. These images from her sublime set at the festival express well the joy that she brought to and took from the creative experience.

As composer, pianist, bandleader, educator and mentor, Diane lived the music and was a tireless advocate for her fellow musicians, for new works, and for opening ears and minds. Her rousing, risk-taking Composers Big Band ran a remarkable 23 years and was easily one of the most compelling big bands around. It was a vehicle not only for her own compositions and those of her bandmates but guest composers and canny reimaginings of everything from Roland Kirk and George Russell to Frank Zappa. In every setting, Diane directed attention to her bandmates and to the music, and encouraged deep listening.

Diane was also a jazz fixer and matchmaker. As a musician, a community activist, a neighbor, a parent, she kept her ear to the ground in service of helping others realize their vision. She connected countless colleagues and students who went on to create new projects and unfailingly remembered to check in because she wanted you to succeed and to pass it on. Beyond her own recordings, Diane scored films, taught master classes and beginners alike, played piano at her church, and donated her time to countless local charities. She was a superfan of her son, Chad, and believed every child was innately creative and capable of great things. She walked the walk with every step, in every facet of her life.

For far too many years, Diane did so through recurring bouts of cancer, which she wouldn’t mention if you didn’t ask. That voicemail connecting you with so-and-so might have come from a hospital bed. Because things needed to get done. Diane made things happen, and she made the world a better place. We miss her.​

Listen here here to “Birdsongs for Eric,” which Diane composed for the 2014 Dolphy festival.

And consider giving here to the Dizzy Gillespie Memorial Fund at the Jazz Foundation of America, which helps uninsured jazz musicians obtain life-saving medical care. Diane was a champion of the fund, started in Dizzy’s name owing to the cancer treatment he received at Englewood Hospital in New Jersey, where Diane also received treatment.