Auditorium To Be Renamed For Retiring Music Teacher Andy Osman

Daryl Holmlund
Andy Osman conducting and MCing at Long Beach Poly's Spring Instrumental Music Concert, March 2019.

Some people leave an indelible mark on everyone around them. Poly Instrumental Music Teacher Andrew Osman is one of them. Over a month ago, Osman was diagnosed with advanced stage pancreatic cancer and retired immediately to begin treatment. In his absence he left a music program in good order but at a loss for words. To understand his legacy, let’s look at the music department that he inherited and how he transformed it.

Poly has a long history of musical success since its founding in 1895. From initially rehearsing in downtown churches near 8th and Long Beach Boulevard, the program added orchestras and winning jazz bands through the middle twentieth century. However, by the early 1980s, it was in shambles due to budget cuts. These cuts resulted in a tumultuous time from 1976 to 1982, where the school had five

band directors in seven years. In the fall of 1983, Osman came, fresh out of UCLA, to a school that Poly music historian Kent Hayworth said was “in a crisis situation.” The instruments were in poor order and the musicians were mostly incapable.

Osman immediately began demanding excellence from his students and worked hard individually with them to build a strong Poly music pro- gram that lived up to its prior reputation. It is difficult to match the work of one’s predecessors, but Osman managed to do so. He surpassed it in many regards. Piano instructor Julia Gustafson, who has taught at Poly for 24 years, said that Osman is “responsible for creating the current music program.”

By the early 1990’s, the program was in its element. At a 1990s concert honoring Poly alumna opera singer Marilyn Horne, she suggested that the Poly auditorium needed a music shell. She gave a benefit concert and thus a shell was purchased that is still in use. today. The musicianship at Poly under the baton of Mr. Osman excelled and put seven lackluster years far in the past.

It was the standard that Osman’s musicians performed to the best of their ability.

Each rehearsal was expected to be productive. He had lots of well-recognized sayings for his students, including often saying,

“You all sound like high school musicians.” Mr. Osman had no interest in the tinny sounds of a high school band and worked daily to emulate a collegiate music program.

His rehearsals were rigorous, but he always supplemented his intensity with humor.

When his ensembles were playing well, he would often correct a section or individual’s performance with a phrase, such as “Was it good or was it luck?” Or a classic joke about an instrument.

Despite Osman’s directness, his warmth won over many students who regarded him highly as an educator and also liked him as a person.

His skill as a director and teacher were recognized in 2010, when he was given the prestigious “Music Educator of the Year Award” for the Long Beach, South Bay, and Orange County region.

If respect and effort are indicators of a successful career, Osman scores top marks on both accounts.

Jazz director Chris Stevens, who worked alongside Osman for 23 years, said that the retiring director “is a great friend and colleague at the same time.”

Principal William Salas said that he built a music program that “draws students from across the district” and is “nationally renowned.”

Choir director Brian Dokko said the he “put his students first” and is a “fantastic team player.”

Dokko is also primarily responsible for starting the effort to rename the Poly auditorium to The Andrew Osman Performing Arts Center through a petition with over 3300 signatures.

Senior Frank Wells described having Mr. Osman as a “privilege” and something that he’ll “cherish for the rest of his life.”

Current San Diego State University Marching Band member John Berry, Poly class of 2018, said, “You can’t look at the music programs in Long Beach without seeing Osman’s footprint.”

Alumni and parents of students or former students from across Southern California and beyond have been leaving comments on the auditorium name change petition online.

Paraskevi June, a student of Osman’s from 1986-1989, wrote that playing under Osman “enriched (her) beyond measure.”

The Poly Auditorium is set to be renamed The Andrew Osman Performing Arts Center.

There will be a renaming ceremony on June 23rd at 1-4 p.m. followed by a reception in the Quad.

Food will be available from a variety of food trucks.