Toms River Regional Schools Hall of Fame

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Joseph D. Clouser

  • "Yes, you can... if you try."
Joseph Clouser is being inducted as this year's Distinguished Honoree to the Toms River School Hall of Fame because of his great and varied contributions to the youth of the community both as a teacher in the system and afterwards in private capacity as well as for his contributions to the community and its musical culture over a period of many years.

When Joe came in 1947 to teach music in the Toms River system as the system's only music teacher, there was no school band. Very quickly we had one with 110 band members, but Dr. Finck ruled that only high school students could perform in the band. The incident underlines Joe's commitment to make music a part of the lives of as many as he could. Now, because of Joe's leadership, our schools have a long and successful record of band achievement, including playing for Presidential inaugurals and even for the Rose Bowl parade.

Joe's academic background must include his 10 years as a student in Girard College, a very unique school, where children in homes where a parent is missing receive an excellent education and help with filling the void in their lives. He did his Bachelor degree studies at West Chester State College and completed his Master's degree at Trenton State College, now "The College of New Jersey".

In 1960, Joe was appointed to the post of Helping Teacher in the Ocean County Department of Education to encourage the development of music programs across the schools of the county. When he assumed his post in 1960, there were 28 schools in the county without music. When he retired in 1974, only one school still had no musical program in its school experience.

What is important to understand about Joe's contributions is that they did not stop at the schoolroom door. Often parents of musically inclined young people would get a call: "I have some tickets fora concert in Newark's Symphony Hall. I thought your youngster might like to go." Or he got them musical jobs, to play for parties and dances. Three members of the Toms River Hall of Fame studied with him: Max Culpepper, Band Director at Dartmouth, Bambi Bernhardt Schiefflin, and Roman Rudnytsky, our world traveling pianist. Another student was Stephen Paul, who has become one of the most important music producers of our time, first with Deutsche Gramophone and now with Sony.

For all the many years that Joe has lived in the community he has continued to provide tutelage to budding young musicians. When the Toms River South band went to play at the Rose Bowl in 1988, six of the band members had been tutored on their instruments by Joe. On another occasion he arranged for four students to have the chance to tour Europe with the All-American High School Band.

And then there is Joe Clouser the musician. He was for 30 years, the chief tympanist for the Garden State Philharmonic Orchestra as well, of course, as being a founding spirit in the creation of the GSPS. For their contributions Joe and Leonard "Bud" Lomeli were given the Morris Adler Distinguished Service Award in 1997. Joe served as organist and choir director at the First United Methodist Church for many years and he has directed senior choruses at Leisure Village West, Holiday City, and Cedar Glen also for years.

And then there is the accordion. One cannot think of Joe without remembering some occasion where the accordion filled a need. For parties, for Christmas sings, for almost any occasion where there might be need for music, Joe could be called upon to perform. He likes to remember best the nine times he played in New Jersey for President Bush's fund-raising campaigns and the three governors for whom he played: Governor Kean and Governor Byrne of New Jersey, and Governor Castle of Delaware. We could have added the times he played trumpet to give body to one of the student musical productions. But the idea is clear that this is a music teacher who also performed music and his work enriched the quality of the life of the community.

Finally there is that other teaching. For example, he taught music at Georgian Court for forty years. And then he taught music for Georgian Court at its Elderhostel programs for senior citizens. And when Georgian Court pulled back from the Elderhostel program, he began teaching for Stockton College's Elderhostels and continues to do so.

Joe and his wife, have given much to the schools, to the young, and to the community. Their two sons, Gary and Steve, had distinguished records going through our schools. Even now his daughter-in-law, Karen Clouser, is an important member of the school community. We are proud to honor Joe Clouser today, a man who, when asked what his favorite quote was, replied: "YES. YOU CAN -- IF YOU TRY."


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