Northwest College Mourns Death of Music Professor

Northwest College Mourns Death of Long-Serving Music Professor

Written by on April 5, 2023

The Northwest College Music Department is mourning the death of Professor Emeritus of Music Dr. Michael Masterson on Saturday, April 1, after “a prolonged illness.” N.W.C. Associate Professor of Music Dr. Rob Rumbolz announced the passing of Dr. Masterson on the Northwest College Music Department Facebook page.

Michael Masterson obtained his Bachelor of Science degree from Ball State College in 1972, a Master in Music from Arizona State University in 1977, and a Ph.D. from the University of New Mexico in 1990.

After receiving his Master’s degree, Masterson began teaching in the Music Department at Northwest College in 1977. He retired 33 years later at the end of this 2009-2010 school year and remained a professor emeritus until his death.

During his three decades at Northwest College, Dr. Masterson served at Northwest College in several capacities: low brass instructor, vocal music director, vocal jazz director, and program coordinator, and a decade as the Visual and Performing Arts division chair.

Furthermore, Masterson organized the vocal side of the Northwest College Jazz Festival and helped start the All-State Vocal Jazz program for Wyoming high school students.

Masterson’s Ph.D. dissertation in American Studies led to re-establishing the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show band. The ensemble performed for many years and allowed Dr. Masterson to share his fascination with the music of that period and its sometimes-difficult super-cultural portrayal of Native American themes.

“My goal is for people to recognize the Wild West Show for the cultural event it was,” Masterson said in 2009. “We’ll cover the history of the music and the role of the band in the show. And I’ll ask the audience to listen for values of the time. In the late 19th century, America was a diverse population of rural, urban, immigrants, and natives. They’re all represented in the music of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. It’s a much more complicated cultural message than what you’d expect from a so-called western performance.”

Masterson was retained for a recording of the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show music by the Americus Brass Band. Music from that recording was featured in the 2004 Disney film “Hildago.”

For his considerable body of work and achievement, Masterson received a Governor’s Arts Award in 2010 and was “a valued member” of the Wyoming Music Educators Association. He also published several peer-reviewed articles on the music of Bob Dylan.

Michael Masterson is survived by his wife Pamela, daughter Melina, and son Anthony.

“He will be greatly missed,” Dr. Rumbolz said.

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