July 12, 2012

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Alumnus juggles practice, business, music magazine

A lot of operations take place behind the doors of 207 N. Park Ave. in Fremont, Ohio. Here, Thomas M. Bowlus ’94 heads three businesses.

Doubling as an attorney at Bowlus & Murrell, Ltd. and president of Park Avenue Title Agency, Inc. downstairs, Bowlus also switches his title at times to editor-in-chief of his self-founded, quarterly publication Bass Gear Magazine.

But if you ask Bowlus what he does for a living, he won’t identify himself by any of those positions.

“If people ask me, ‘What do you do?’ Some people will say their immediate answer is: ‘I’m an attorney.’ In all honesty, ‘I’m a bass player’ probably comes to my mind before ‘I’m an attorney,’ ” Bowlus said.

Recollecting the first time he heard the strums of a double bass in fourth grade, Bowlus said, “As soon as I heard it, I said, ‘I want to play that.’ That really hooked me from hearing it.” He started playing the upright bass in fifth grade and hasn’t strung far away from the instrument since.

In addition to committing around 60 hours per week to his practice, publication, and title agency, Bowlus also said he plays in four bands. One of them, Gingley JoH, he has been a bassist for since his he was an undergraduate at The Ohio State University.

Gingley JoH played several venues through the years, including Newport Music Hall, Alrosa Villa, and the band’s first gig at Apollo’s. Bowlus said he used to play three of four shows a week when he was a law student and working about 30 hours per week at the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

“Probably the time that I really honed my skills of juggling a lot at once was during law school,” he said.

Bowlus said he never foresaw himself going to law school or practicing alongside his father, who advised him during summer break in high school to work at a car wash for $4.50 an hour instead of going on a European tour as a double bassist with a local symphony orchestra.

Thereafter, Bowlus decided to pursue a career in environmental science and environmental policy. In 1991, he earned a Bachelor of Science from Ohio State in natural resources, with distinction in environmental communications.

“The reason I went to law school was I thought if I wanted to be involved in environmental policy on any type of a higher level, I needed to either be a specialist in one field or I needed to get a law degree,” Bowlus said. “Even though my dad is an attorney and I ended up taking over his practice, that actually wasn’t my game plan until several years out of law school.”

Bowlus continued working at the Ohio EPA four years out of law school, primarily in the voluntary action program. He said, “When it came time for my wife and I to settle down and have kids, Fremont looked more compelling. Having a town with grandparents, who become built-in babysitters, was more compelling. Being able to be my own boss was more compelling.”

Now practicing less environmental law, Bowlus said he runs a general practice, focusing on real estate, corporate law, and estate planning. He also acts as a local counsel for a regional bank in Fremont.

“I’ve managed to avoid the negative stuff; I don’t do criminal, domestic, or bankruptcy,” Bowlus said. Adding the title agency is “complementary” to his firm, he said, “In a small town, you kind of have to do a big variety.”

Bowlus was quick to respond, however, that Bass Gear Magazine is his preferred vocation. The magazine, which is distributed throughout 42 countries, is the second-most-read bass magazine in the world, he said.

“An extremely in-depth magazine,” Bass Gear Magazine, has about 12 contributors nationwide, Bowlus said, and focuses on gear or accessories for bass guitars. The publication covers gear reviews, player interviews, factory tours, and trade shows.

“My secret desire is that Bass Gear Magazine totally takes off,” Bowlus said. However, he acknowledges magazines are a “fickle business,” so he’ll likely continue all of his careers and always be involved in music as a hobby.

“I figured out a while ago that to get by as just a performer on an instrument is really, really difficult,” Bowlus said. Laughing, he added, “As far as which came first as a means of paying the bills, that would be the legal profession, (and) I do enjoy being an attorney.”

By Sarah Pfledderer

SideBar is a monthly electronic newsletter for Moritz College of Law alumni. Questions regarding this publication should be directed to moritzlawnews@osu.edu.