SIDNEY — Local educator, musician, and Sidney resident Omar Lozano has been selected to receive the 2019 Ohio Music Educator of the Year Award.
The award is presented annually by the Ohio Music Educators Association to educators who excel in their field of expertise and recognizes their excellence and service in musical education. In a surprise ceremony at Miami East High School on Dec. 7 following the annual National Honor Society induction, Lozano was recognized by Ann Usher of the Ohio Music Educators Association with the top honor after being nominated by Frank Fahrer.
The award is given to one music educator in the entire state who is deemed to be the top music educator for the year. He will be further recognized at the state OMEA conference in Cleveland later this school year.
Lozano is the choir and band director at Miami East High School in Casstown, Ohio, and has taught there since 2009. He began his teaching career at the Family Life Center in Sidney shortly after getting his master’s degree from the University of Akron in 1997 and later taught music at Fairlawn Local Schools from 2000-08 before going to Miami East.
Lozano is thankful for the award, but says the bigger reward is uniting people with the same passion and seeing them come together to create music.
“Having a student tell me how I inspired them musically and sometimes personally is my biggest reward. Kids need someone to take a personal interest and care about them, to encourage them, invest some time and work with them; it’s that personal touch that counts and accomplishes things that programs alone can’t do,” he said.
“Many of my students refer to me as their Choir Dad, Band Dad, or Music Dad and I want to be there for them to create those special memories and help hone skills that will last a lifetime. Maybe someday they will do the same for others. I remember what it was like for me and even help out financially on occasions and have even shared my lunch if needed … whatever it takes. As for the future I intend to stay with teaching and playing music in the Lima Symphony orchestra with my wife who plays piano and flute,” he said.
Lozano, a Texas native, has had an interest in music for as long as he can remember; at a very tender age a pastime led to a passion and set him on a long and challenging road to success. The youngest son of parents that migrated from Mexico to the U.S. and became naturalized citizens in the late 1950’s, Omar was born in 1973 near Mission, Texas, and attended the same school as football great Tom Landry.
Lozano’s parents specialized in agriculture and spent the winters in Texas and traveled to South Dakota in the summer following the opportunities associated with raising and harvesting a variety of crops ranging from soybeans to citrus fruit.
Compared to his older brothers and sisters Lozano had it easy and did not start working in the fields until he was about 8 or 9 years old. The summer before the fourth-grade he traveled to South Dakota and began working with his parents and spent several months cutting and pulling weeds in the vast soybean fields near Vermillion in the south-eastern part of the state. The work days started at 5:30 a.m. and found Omar toiling until 6:00 p.m.
“Those were long, long, hot days; we had to wear long-sleeved shirts because the beans were prickly and would irritate your skin. Within minutes of starting each day my clothes were soaking-wet from the morning dew on the soy beans but eventually the sun would come out and dry us off … but then it got hot, really hot!” Lozano said, “I didn’t like being out there working in the fields all day but didn’t think much about it, it was just what we did to get by, it was, our way of life.”
During the off-season while attending grade-school in Texas, Lozano remembers the U.S. Army band performing at his school and the impression made by one of the band members while playing a patriotic song.
“This guy was standing right in front of me wearing a beautiful uniform with bright-shiny gold buttons on his coat. He looked so perfect and was playing a beautifully polished bassoon. I was mesmerized by what I saw,” Lozano said. “I said to myself, wow, I wanna be like that guy,” and the first seed of his musical career was planted.
Lozano’s parents had to make every penny count and though he was well provided for in most respects, there was no money in the coffers for a luxury like a bassoon, but that didn’t stop Lozano.
“I got a piece of 2 by 4, cut it to the length of a bassoon, sanded it down and drilled holes in it to resemble my chosen instrument; I then cut pieces of an egg carton into small flaps and circle-like buttons and attached them so as to resemble the real thing,” said Lozano. “A friend at school gave me a bassoon music book with a finger chart and soon I was learning the scales on my home-made ‘instrument.’ It was kind of like my version of an air-guitar.”
Time passed and Lozano grew tired of working in the fields in the summer. One evening after work he complained to his mother about being so tired and she told him he’d better start thinking about what he wanted to do with the rest of his life.
“She said I had some choices to make about what I could do when I grew up. Maybe I could join the military after school, or try to go to college, or … I could spend the rest of my life working in the fields. I knew I didn’t want to work in the fields for the rest of my life and all I could think about was that man in the uniform playing that bassoon!” Lozano said, affirming his decision to become a polished musician.
Omar’s mother and father had a strong work ethic and encouraged their son to press on.
“Mom told me to work hard and never give up and that investing in the thing I loved would pay off if I would only stick with it,” Lozano said, and he did. “I tried out for the school band in the eighth grade, the instructor asked me what I wanted to play and I told him the bassoon; I had practiced on my home-made version until I knew three scales and figured what did I have to lose. I was really nervous but I gave it a try; surprisingly I played well enough for the instructor to give me a spot in the band. I was in.”
Though Lozano was now on track to pursue his dream, life was about to bring a different set of circumstances. Lozano reflected with a distant stare, “My father got sick and was diagnosed with ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease which was a devastating blow to our family, but we made the best of it. I remember how Dad encouraged me even while he was sick, even when bedfast, he played me songs on his harmonica which was his way of showing me how to find hope and joy through music.
“My Dad died my freshman year of High School which put us in a pretty tight spot financially yet, in many ways, the situation seemed to make us stronger,” said Lozano. “I was the apple of my mother’s eye and she always did her best to make sure I had a good life while securing my future prospects as a musician. I got a booster scholarship from school that paid for bassoon lessons. I started at the bottom and many small steps lie ahead but I was determined to play.
“By my junior year I tried out for the Texas All-State Symphonic Band and failed; one of my band instructors said it was too hard to get in which just made me that much more determined to prove them wrong. My senior year I made the All-State Band and now I had my sights on college,” he said.
Lozano pushed onward towards his goal, always investing in the future; he finished his undergraduate in music at Lee University in Cleveland, Tennessee, and in 1997 he graduated from the University Akron in Ohio with honors. Lozano credits his first bassoon teacher David Smith with helping him all along the way even after high school.
“David helped me fine tune my skills, increase my knowledge and get rid of some bad habits I developed by inexperience. We became very good friends through music and I still stay in contact and enjoy visiting him when time permits,” Lozano said.
Today Lozano is living a dream come true and his passion is to teach and encourage others to do the same. He is the choir and music director at Miami East schools, teaches bassoon lessons at Ohio Northern University, and is co-director of the music ministries at the Sidney Nazarene Church, a position he shares with his wife, Melissa, who is also a music major.
“I also am a member of the Military Funeral Honors Team. I enlisted and joined the 338th U.S. Army Band in 2006. It is an awesome privilege and honor to perform for the fallen and I am deeply moved at every ceremony I have taken part in,” Lozano said.
Lozano resides in Sidney with his wife, Melissa, and three children, Gabrielle, Caleb and Hannah. Those wishing to see him and his wife perform may do so during an upcoming concert in Lima on New Year’s Eve featuring the music of Abba. Go to https://www.limasymphony.com/ for more information.