Family feud continues over Moog archives

The family feud continues over where to store renowned electronic instrument inventor Bob Moog’s archives, with his widow and the president of his daughter’s foundation releasing dueling statements.

His widow, Ileana Grams-Moog, announced July 18 that she’s planning to donate his personal archive of notes, plans, drawings and recordings to the Cornell University Library’s Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections in Ithaca, N.Y.

However, Grams-Moog made no mention of the Bob Moog Foundation in her original announcement, which has overseen the preservation of those archives for the last seven years in Asheville, where Moog lived from 1979 until his death in 2005. The foundation is a nonprofit organization run by Michelle Moog-Koussa, the inventor’s daughter, who said that she and other family members were surprised and disappointed by the decision to ship the archives out of town.

On July 26, Synthtopia published the following statement from Grams-Moog:

I am dismayed to hear so much misinformation about my donation of the Bob Moog Archives to Cornell University.  I did not intend to speak publicly about this. However, the number of false statements about the situation and the damage it could cause to Bob’s legacy have compelled me to do so.

I’d like to make the following clear:

• This was solely my decision. For anyone to imply that I was coerced by the president of Moog Music, Cornell, or ‘dark forces’ is laughable and false.

• This is not about money. The only money I have ever been offered was by the Bob Moog Foundation last week, who offered me $100,000 to buy the archives. I was offended. I don’t believe you can put a price on my husband’s legacy or archives. They are not for sale. I am not being paid by Cornell. I have not ever and will not ever receive money for this donation.

• Comparing Cornell’s world-class archival resources with those of the Bob Moog Foundation makes the decision clear. As the first chair of the BMF board, I have long had grave reservations about the financial stability of the Foundation. It would be irresponsible of me to place the archives with an organization that did not have a long-term record of stability and resources for a long-term future. I have always intended Bob’s archives to be publicly accessible as he wished, but keeping them with the Foundation was dependent on the successful achievement of the proposed Moogseum. It’s been seven years – there’s no Moogseum in sight, and scholars, researchers and students still don’t have adequate access to Bob’s archives.

I am especially disappointed by the attacks on Mike Adams and Moog Music. Mike is the business partner Bob chose and worked side-by-side with. Bob loved and respected Mike, and he would be proud of the company Moog Music is today. The company is making both Bob’s products and new ones that build on what he did. It employs 50 people and supports the local economy. All this is the legacy that mattered to Bob.

I want to express my appreciation to all the volunteers who poured their passion for Bob into the BMF and to assure them that Bob’s legacy will be fully accessible to them through Cornell’s work. Everyone, including the Foundation, will benefit from being able to access the collection online and in person when it is organized and made available to the public.

I hope this clarifies my reasoning and dispels the falsehoods around this matter.  Please do not lose sight of the main issue. It’s a great honor to have Bob’s archives housed with the Emancipation Proclamation and Gettysburg Address.  Cornell is the best solution for scholars, engineers, and students to study Bob’s work in perpetuity.”

In response, the Bob Moog Foundation released an open letter Aug. 10 signed by Bryan Bell, president of the nonprofit’s board of directors.

Read the letter in its entirety here:

The past three weeks have been hard ones for the children of Bob Moog and the staff, board, and friends of the Bob Moog Foundation (BMF). As President of the BMF Board of Directors, I am profoundly disappointed in Dr. Ileana Grams-Moog’s decision to withdraw her support for the BMF, a not-for-profit organization devoted to perpetuating Bob’s love of music and innovation, the manner in which she chose to do it, and her exclusion of key facts.

I knew Bob well. We were colleagues and friends for more than 30 years. During that time, we collaborated on projects and solved problems that changed the way music is made. I serve on the BMF board because it is the truest representation of Bob’s legacy. That is why I also know how sad it would make him to see what is happening in his name, and why we should all be asking Ileana a few questions.

What’s behind the sudden decision to take the archives away from the BMF?
• On Feb. 14, 2013, after 18 months of personally and directly negotiating with Ileana, we agreed upon the BMF’s temporary custody of the archives and management of Bob’s Rights of Publicity (his name, image, signature, and voice). This was the first step towards a much larger agreement between us. In the words of the interim agreement, we were working “together in good faith to define and execute a mutually satisfactory [larger] Agreement as rapidly as possible,” or so I thought.

• Suddenly, on February 25, Ileana notified me that she would not sign the interim agreement, based on information she had received from Moog Music President Mike Adams. (Note:  Mr. Adams was a BMF board member at the time these discussions took place.) The BMF quickly addressed Ileana’s concerns in writing, concerns that she never voiced to me as the BMF board president and concerns that were later proven to have no basis in fact.

• Why was there no consultation with Bob’s children about the future of their father’s archives and his Rights of Publicity?

What about money?
• We all agree that Bob’s legacy is priceless, but his share of Moog Music and his Rights of Publicity have price tags. Because Ileana has chosen to publically disclose the BMF’s offer to purchase the archives, I challenge her to disclose the detailed terms, both financially and legally, of her sale of Bob’s share of Moog Music and her sale of Bob’s Rights of Publicity to Mike Adams.

• Was there a financial contribution to Cornell from Moog Music regarding the archives? Will Moog Music, for example, have access to the Cornell Archives for their commercial purposes? Will the Bob Moog Foundation and Bob’s children have access to the archives for their own use? 

Has The BMF been a good steward of Bob’s archives?

• The answer is an unequivocal YES. For seven years The BMF has consistently acted in the best interest of Bob’s legacy, rescuing his archives from moisture, dirt and mildew; storing the archives in secure climate controlled storage; entering into a lease with the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources to secure state-of-the-art archival facilities in Western N.C.; and making the difficult but prudent decision to defer a capital campaign to fund building of the Moogseum.

• Ileana has said that her decision to move the archives was based, in part, on the fact that construction has not started on the Moogseum, the eventual Asheville home for Bob’s archives. At no time did she ever communicate that requirement to the BMF Board or me. Furthermore, during her tenure as president of the BMF Board, Ileana personally oversaw the decision to postpone the Moogseum’s capital campaign until the economy recovered from the nation’s worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. The economy aside, great museums take a long time to build. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, for example, took 16 years to plan before breaking ground.

The BMF’s leadership, board and staff have intentionally stayed above the fray, and we encourage our supporters to do the same. Ileana’s decision to move the archives, which was announced in a press release written and distributed by Moog Music’s public relations firm and posted on Moog Music’s website, has unleashed negative comments, many of which raise questions about the role Mike Adams and Moog Music played in Ileana’s sudden change of heart. The BMF has chosen to take the high road, and we will continue to do so, despite many inaccurate comments from Ileana and Mike Adams. That’s what Bob would expect of us. But Ileana’s decision and its timing, the wording of the announcement and the secrecy surrounding its release raise troubling questions about whose interests are really being served by Ileana’s actions.

As for The BMF, we will continue to do what we do best – inspiring and igniting creativity through historic preservation of the Bob Moog Foundation Archives and creating programs like Dr. Bob’s SoundSchool, which introduce children to the power of music, science, and innovation. Nothing would have made Bob happier or prouder.

(Trademarks referred to in this letter are the property of their respective owners)

Bryan Bell, President
Bob Moog Foundation Board of Directors

Bryan Bell is President and Founder of Synth-Bank Consulting, LLC (Synth-Bank®) a technology practice focusing on using technology to enhance business and creative processes. Bryan spent 20 years consulting and pioneering technology innovation for high-profile corporations and entertainers, including Apple, Domain Chandon, NBC, GEIS, Herbie Hancock, Carlos Santana, Neil Young, Branford Marsalis and INXS. He has served continuously for over 20 years on the board of directors of The Bridge School. Bryan holds a DIS from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Business Administration and has been a speaker at conferences around the world. Bryan Bell’s latest music production project, “Duality”, by Nestler and Hawtin was recently released on iTunes.



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3 thoughts on “Family feud continues over Moog archives

  1. lillyl

    I have been following this feud in the papers, on the internet, and I even saw a flyer at a coffee shop giving Moog Music employees more grief. After all of this I have come to the conclusion that the Bob Moog Foundation has done nothing but embarrass themselves. Really really embarrass themselves. Just drop it and save yourself some dignity.

  2. Harcourt Davison

    What I find truly embarrassing about this particular issue is the propensity for casual onlookers to illustrate their dearth of knowledge by making snide unsupported comments. Facts are facts, and the facts in this don’t add up.

    The more I read about this situation, the more I am left with questions like those raised by Brian Bell’s letter. None of it makes sense, and when something like this doesn’t make sense, it’s about the money. When the issue seems to be between a multimillion dollar company that seems only interested in money and a charitable educational nonprofit whose goal is to educate kids… somehow, I’m not going to imagine that the badguy is the nonprofit. But maybe that’s just me.

    • Amateur Archivist

      It’s possible that Dr.Grams-Moog was simply concerned with the best archival care and access to scholars for Dr. Moog’s papers and concluded that a major university could provide that. An analogy might be the Thomas Wolfe papers, none of which are in Asheville, and reside primarily at Harvard University. While the “family feud” aspect of this is titillating to the general public, perhaps a professional archivist could weigh in with an opinion about what is best for a world-class archive.

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