Band "Mom" Jeannette Moffit Remembered
The Purdue "All-American" Marching Band is a community of hard-working musicians, entertainers, directors, composers, supporters, and most of all, friends. As we know, countless hours are spent in rehearsals and performances, but more importantly building relationships which last a lifetime. We support each other through sweat and aching muscles. We commiserate on frozen toes and rain-soaked uniforms. We band together to cheer for our alma mater in its triumphs and failures. And we support each other in times of heartache. We march to the same beat because we are the Purdue Band family.
On Sunday, January 26, 2014, the Purdue "All-American" Marching Band lost a significant member of the band family, Jeannette Moffit, wife of marching band legend Dr. Bill Moffit.
Though she and Bill had met during his service in the US Coast Guard during their late high school careers, they spent part of their lives in separate areas of the country. It was no surprise that when they were reunited in Houston, Texas, they were soon married. As newlyweds, the couple moved to West Lafayette to begin a new chapter in their life together when Dr. Moffit accepted a position as the third director of the "All-American" Marching Band.
Through countless rehearsals and performances, Jeannette was at her husband's side, supporting him and nurturing his students as a confidante and friend. Jeannette never missed a game day with her beloved band and was frequently involved in happenings in the band's home in Elliott Hall of Music and around the country and world. She often invited students to her home for dinner or to bake a cake for another student's birthday. When the band traveled, she attended to students' needs and explored with them. She was "mom" away from home.
In grade school, Dr. Bill Moffit was always excited to see marching bands performed. When given the chance, he selected to learn the trombone so he could march at the front of the band. Upon graduation, Moffit worked for the marching bands first at Michigan State University and then at the University of Houston. In 1981, the Purdue "All-American" Marching Band welcomed Moffit and his popular "Patterns of Motion" style that was sweeping the marching band community nationally. His unbridled enthusiasm inspired his band students who repaid his hard work and dedication with memorable performances using the blast of sound and beautiful drill designs as he had taught them, so much that they gave him "Gooseflesh," or goosebumps as they are commonly referred. He was a successful composer who wrote over 450 arrangements and sold over a million copies, including a version of "Star Spangled Banner" that is still popular today. Upon his retirement in 1988, Moffit was named "Indiana's Music Arranger Laureate" by the Indiana General Assembly and was awarded "Professor of Bands Emeritus" the Purdue University Board of Trustees.
Jeannette married Moffit shortly before their move to West Lafayette, Indiana, and supported his career with enthusiasm. However, Jeannette took her role further than most wives by becoming immediately involved in the band and nurturing its students. Students loved to joke with her about her quirky filters she used on her cigarettes. Alumni recount stories spanning her advice on romance, her southern hospitality and recipes (though some say it may have sabotaged "weigh ins" that were common practice in the day), her celebration of every student's birthday no matter where they were, and her matronly admiration for them all.
Most recently, Jeannette was living in Jacksonville, Florida, and had reconnected with many of the self-proclaimed "Moffit Kids," students who were in the marching band under Moffit's direction, on Facebook sharing recipes and memories. Her positive, uplifting attitude will be missed.
Purdue Bands and Orchestras extend their sincerest condolences to the Moffits' two daughters as well as the many band alumni who will mourn Jeannette's death. Through the community that they built together, the traditions they held dear, and the entertainment they brought the Purdue family and fans, our department will forever be grateful and true that the legendary band director and his wife dedicated their genius, kindness, enthusiasm, and support to a legacy for today and future students.