When medical professionals use percussion as part of their practice, they tap body parts with their fingers, hands or small instruments to assess and diagnose.  

Jeff Moore, dean of the College of Arts and Humanities, uses percussion to touch people’s hearts

It’s a passion he has cultivated since he was 10 years old in San Jose, CA, and begged his father – a former drummer turned engineer – for a set of drums.  

His father relented but added a condition: Before he would buy the younger Moore a snare drum, he had to demonstrate his commitment by developing his fundamental technique on a drum practice pad.  

Moore said he did not get the same satisfaction from tapping the drumsticks on the thick rubber pad, but the hours he spent practicing prepared him for what would become a lifelong love of all things percussion.   


At 15, Moore figured banging on the drums would perhaps lead to a lucrative career, hair a-flying, in rock-and-roll. He listened, however, when a wise band director told him that if he were truly serious about music, he should focus on all components of music, including reading and understanding pitch, melody, harmony, timbre, and form. 

Moore already knew that the percussion instrument family encompassed more than just drums; unlike most of the other players in an orchestra, percussionists may be required to play many different instruments in one piece of music.  

Moore took his band director’s advice to heart, and reached out to Tony Cirone, a renowned percussionist with the San Francisco Symphony who had honed his craft under Saul Goodman, an equally legendary NYC musician. 

From there, Moore went on to the University of North Texas, where he learned an important lesson about his craft.  

“In college, I was playing Musser’s Étude in C,” Moore said. The composition is a solo piece for the marimba, which is one of Moore’s favorite instruments. As Moore energetically danced his four mallets across the instrument, he realized he had forgotten the notes to an upcoming section of the piece. All of them. 

“I figured that if I started over, that it would come back to me,” Moore laughed. So that’s what he did. “I still couldn’t recall the ‘lost’ section when I got there the second time, so I rolled on a chord, skipped that section, and went on to a part I could remember.” 

As he left the recital hall, however, he was mentally beating himself up for an imperfect performance, and for not paying proper respect to the composer’s work. He passed by one of his percussion professor’s offices, who called out to him. 

“‘That was an interesting étude,’” Moore recalled of the comment. “I never heard the Musser piece performed quite that way. Have you discovered a ‘lost’ version?” The light-hearted way that Moore’s professor had addressed his temporary transgression was a lesson that has stayed with him throughout more than 30 years of teaching.  

Lifelong Learning

“It happens to everyone,” Moore says, simply. His goal as a teacher is to not only help students learn how to overcome missteps and memory slips in performance, but to help to learn the concept of time management – managing tasks and staying on schedule (essential for a musician who is expected to play at a professional level on many different instruments) – and to become lifelong learners. 

“Education is not a race,” Moore says. “Life and learning are journeys and very rewarding ones if approached with an open mind for new ideas and concepts, instead of looking for a single, dogmatic ‘right’ answer.”  

Moore’s approach to education extends beyond his encouragement of budding musicians and other students of the arts.  

He is also committed to securing the best possible venue for them, a mission he began not long after he arrived at UCF in 1994 as the university’s first full-time percussion professor.  

The Music-Brain Connection

The Globe. Carnegie Hall. The Hollywood Bowl. High school auditoriums. Broadway and 2nd Avenue in Nashville.

From Shakespeare to buskers, performers gotta perform. Blame it on the brain (apologies to Milli Vanilli). 

Kiminobu Sugaya is a professor and the head of the Neuroscience Division in the Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences. Not only is he passionate about finding a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, but he also studies the effects of music on the brain.  

For example, Sugaya discovered that classical music such as Mozart (not Milli Vanilli) increases brain activity in the frontal lobe by up to 50 percent. This happens even when the person listening has never heard the music before.  

Your brain activity has probably increased while listening to music without you being aware; perhaps you got cutis anserine – commonly known as goosebumps. That was likely the result of the nucleus accumbens, that part of the brain that seeks pleasure and reward, and releases the neurotransmitter dopamine, the “feel-good” chemical. 


Fun fact: The marimba sound is recognizable as the default ringtone in Apple’s iOS 7 mobile operating system.  Listen! 

Jeff Moore is not a neuroscientist, but he can tell you why you get goosebumps when you hear the marimba. The marimba looks like its cousin, the xylophone, but it sounds at concert pitch (thinner tone bars) and a xylophone sounds one octave higher (thicker tone bars). This helps the marimba to have a soft and mellow tone, not unlike that of a wind instrument. 

Moore’s specialty is not the study of how music interacts with the brain, but he knows about the power of music, and its effect on performers and their audience. He also knows about the special passion that drives performers to do what they do. In general, he says, musicians and other creative types don’t necessarily care about their venue, they just have the need to share their gift with the world.  

The Vision for UCF’s Performing Arts

For more than 10 years, Moore has been working with the UCF Foundation to enhance the ways by which our students can express their craft.   

“A state-of-the-art performing arts space for our artists to create is important to me as the dean of the College of Arts and Humanities, but it is far more important to the UCF community,” Moore says. “Our students are clearly passionate about their craft, and would be happy to perform anywhere, but they deserve the finest space that we can provide. That is what motivates me every single day.” 

As one of the youngest members of the Florida State University System, UCF (est. 1963) has made many capital improvements over the years, but its building demands have not always kept pace with its tremendous growth. 

In 1969, UCF’s theatre department held its first performance in a 124-foot yellow-and-blue tent. In 1972, student performances transitioned to the science auditorium, which received a $1.2 million renovation in 1983.  (Pictured, science auditorium with performance tent to the left.) 

When Moore arrived, the tent had disappeared, but he noted there were other upgrades that still needed to be made to the department and began long-term planning.  

The building project is currently in Phase II; groundbreaking on Phase I took place in May 2009 when Moore oversaw and coordinated the move from its old facilities into the new building. The university’s long-term vision for the college is to include more support space with the upcoming facility.

“The new space needs to be future looking, allowing for students to be content creators,” Moore said. “It has to be a place ready for the Metaverse, where Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality meet with our various disciplines including the arts. Students need a space to perform and to design experiences that can be distributed digitally.” 

But whatever emerges from the many discussions about the space, Moore’s over-arching vision is for it to be “innovative, interdisciplinary arts-making.”  

Moore also oversaw $2.2 million in funding to build a permanent Marching Band building. This was an important component to protect and shield the band from weather during its many summertime practices. He is working on the latest initiative in the Marching Band Building Project by raising money to get permanent lights installed on the practice field which will facilitate nighttime practices, as well as performances.  

He served as Chair of the Music Department from 2009 until 2013, when he began his role as the founding director of UCF’s newly created School of Performing Arts, which combined the considerable talents of the Department of Music and the Theatre Department. Under his leadership, both departments received national accreditation or reaccreditation. Moore was named dean of the College in 2016. Last year, he was reappointed to a second five-year term. 

“Under Dean Moore’s leadership, the college and its faculty are steadily becoming more academically robust,” said Michael D. Johnson, provost and executive vice president for Academic Affairs. “He and his college demonstrate an authentic concern for the diversity of the human experience and a commendable entrepreneurial spirit.”

“Our students are clearly passionate about their craft, and would be happy to perform anywhere, but they deserve the finest space that we can provide. That is what motivates me every single day.” 

Jeff Moore

Dean, UCF College of Arts & Humanities

Celebrating the Arts in Central Florida

As Moore has continued building the college’s programs, he has also become involved in arts projects in the Central Florida area and beyond, including UCF Celebrates the Arts, a multi-platformed event that brings together scholars and artists from all backgrounds at the beautiful Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Orlando. 

Moore founded UCF Celebrates the Arts in 2015 to showcase the variety of music and theatre performances, and visual displays that brings together students and faculty from the College of Arts and Humanities as well as outside partners, performers and visiting composers. He also hoped the platform would lead to interdisciplinary collaborations from within and outside the arts programs at UCF. He recounts collaborations with UCF physics faculty member Dr. Costas Efthimiou in presenting Brian Greene’s ICARUS at the Edge of Time and a special lecture/concert with Nobel Prize-winning physicist Kip Thorne and Oscar-winning composer Hans Zimmer as highlights of interdisciplinary activities. 

Moore had envisioned the event ever since stepping onto campus in 1994 as a 26-year-old newly minted assistant professor of music. Other performance venues were nearing the end of their life span; Orlando gave its approval for the new Amway Center, improvements to the Camping World Stadium and the Dr. Phillips Center in 2007.  

And as grateful as Moore is for that venue, and for the various locales around Central Florida that welcome UCF with open arms and stages, he believes the university is past due for its own high-tech performance home.  



Recently, the College of Arts and Humanities announced two new degrees for students who aspire toward specialized careers in theme parks, zoos, aquariums, themed retail, dining, museums, virtual worlds and exhibitions.  

The Themed Experience MS and the Theatre MFA-Themed Experience Track provide comprehensive training to step into the roles of their dreams – not just in the Orlando area, but in entertainment venues around the world. 

When you look at what our students and alumni have accomplished in such a small amount of time, imagine what they could accomplish if we just kicked up our campus resources for them?

I believe with all my heart that we need to show our students that we believe in them.

What better way to do that than by building them a venue on campus that will feed and grow their passion and help nourish the community’s desire for high-quality arts experiences for generations to come.

Written by  Camille Dolan ’98, Writer, UCF Advancement  | [email protected]

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