Joe Mussulman

By Mick Holien

The obituary of Joe Mussulman came just short of filling an entire column in Saturday’s Missoulian.

And while an admirable dissertation it only scraped the surface of his 89-year life, his influence on the arts and individuals.

Rob Quist, an original member of the Mission Mountain Wood Band, counts Joe’s influence, when Quist sang with “Montana’s Finest Voices, the Jubileers as the greatest and most important of his life.

He tried out for the prestigious UM group when a raw sophomore from the Hi-Line (Cutbank).

“He changed my life forever,” said Quist. “He taught me how to be a professional.”

The group, which toured worldwide on a couple of USO trips, brought Quist, Steve Riddle, M2WB originals, and Greg Devlin together for the first time.

“I learned a lot from that guy,” said Devlin affectionately recalling Joe told him that “music happens when there is no sound.”

The breath of his influence is widespread.

“An amazing impact,” added Quist, whose daughter Halladay also later sang with the group. “He set my feet on the path.”

Anything but just a UM music professor Mussulman directed the Mendelssohm Club and the Symphony Chorale.

He also excelled on the other side of the microphone acting in a variety of Missoula Children’s Theatre productions under Jim Caron and Michael McGill and authored several publications including a biography and a textbook.

Mussulman won the Governor’s Arts Award in 1999 and an award for Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation for outstanding contribution in bringing the nation greater awareness of Lewis and Clark.

Joe was the producer, editor and writer for Discovering Lewis and Clark, a website that went on line in ‘98 and remains the most visited of all Lewis and Clark sites.

An innovator, said Quist, he brought the first “Moog” synthesizer to UM as part of the composer’s program.

It has been a couple of decades since I was with Mussulman auditioning for providing audio for a Lewis and Clark project.

Not knowing him before I came into a downtown Missoula studio, it didn’t take me long to realize I was performing for a master who pushed hard for several hours to get me into the character he envisioned.

I failed to get the part but in failing I realized the personal investment he made in even the smallest of details and how much he taught me about myself without realizing it.

Steve Riddle remembered that Mussulman possessed the ability to push for perfection by being heavily critical without being offensive.

Riddle was selected for the Jubileers the spring of his UM freshman career.

“What an honor,” especially he said because he was then mainly recognized as being Dick Riddle’s little brother.

Donning the group’s red jacket and black pants for a gig was quite prestigious, he recalled.

Known also as much for the area’s geographical terrain one couldn’t pigeon-hole Mussulman’s expertise.

After retirement in 1988, he assumed yet another role as “Ranger Joe” where he could maybe be found on his horse in Upper Pattee Canyon, Lolo Pass or the Rattlesnake Recreational Area for the U.S. Forest Service.

His funeral mass, surely to be heavily attended, is Wednesday at 11a.m. at Catholic Community Church on Eaton in Missoula.

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