This page gives us an opportunity to introduce one of our members “up close and personal”. Our featured player this month is John Frank, clarinet.
John was born in Atlantic City, N.J. and grew up in Egg Harbor City. His mother was a gifted pianist who had a music scholarship opportunity at Oberlin. Her parents unfortunately quashed her attempt and insisted she pursue a nursing career to assure a more secure financial future. (Does this sound familiar to anyone else?) However, nursing was beneficial to her musical interest in an unusual way. She met and married John’s father, a physician whom she met at Atlantic City Hospital. He bought her a Baldwin baby grand, which is still in the family today. “Music was always in my house, and I drove my father and his patients nuts playing Wagner on the stereo in the back of the house at annoyingly loud volume levels during his office hours.”
John started playing clarinet in 4th grade, having been denied the pleasure of playing his first choice, the drums. (That sounds familiar as well.) John attended Oakcrest High School in Mays Landing, where he was concertmaster for all 4 of his high school years. He also played in the All South Jersey Band for 3 years, the Boys State Band at Rutgers University sponsored by the area Kiwanis Club, and received the John Philip Sousa Award his senior year.
“We played at the New York World’s Fair in ’63, which was a blast. A number of us also played in the Egg Harbor Masonic Band while in school. This group was much like MCCB, but we also marched often. Before Atlantic City had casinos, the boardwalk had many long parades and we hoofed along playing all the old famous street marches for the Elks, Firemen, Tall Cedars, and other groups that wanted to party after a hike on the boards. One of the guest conductors in the South Jersey Band was Bert Meyers, long-time conductor of the Allentown Band and former solo cornet with the Sousa Band. I was delighted to find out that he was also the band director at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, where I pursued a degree in Natural Science. Instrumental music at ‘Berg was virtually non-existent when I attended, but we had a great time with Bert anyway, rehearsing each week and playing mainly for sporting events. At rehearsal he once picked up a French horn and played the Carnival of Venice with all of its variations on horn. I was amazed, since he was a young 75 years of age back then.”
John started working for Merck in West Point the day after college graduation and stayed on for almost 35 years before retiring in ’03. He turned down a graduate assistantship at Adelphi University in Marine Biology, choosing dollars over more work in the classroom. This allowed him to buy a boat and to pursue his true interest in marine biology, catching and releasing fish. He worked in the Safety Assessment Department at MRL starting as a biologist in histology and finishing as a senior research fellow in charge of a lab running and developing histochemical and immunohistochemical stains to aid a staff of veterinary pathologists in determining pathological changes in laboratory animal tissues related to drug testing.
“Back in ’69, now in Lansdale, I asked staff at the North Penn Reporter if they knew of any local community bands in the area. They told me of the Quakertown Band, and I joined almost immediately. I met my wife Diane (horn) in Quakertown where she was the first female in the band since WWII. We both played there for many years, and I served as President and concertmaster for a number of years. Bert Meyers came down occasionally to ask for help in Allentown, so I did have the chance to fill in with him in the Allentown Band once in a while. I also played in a woodwind ensemble directed by Ralph Moyer of Moyer’s Shoes in Quakertown, playing primarily bass clarinet. After playing many summer jobs, which limited valuable fishing time, a buddy at Merck (a trumpet player of all things) told me to give the Merion Band in Merion Station a try since they had a library of classical transcriptions that was incredible and didn’t play as many summer gigs. Diane and I have played there ever since. We both are also members of the Pennsylvania Symphonic Winds, the Upper Darby Sousa Band, the Williamsburg Consort and Windjammers Unlimited (circus music). Our son and his wife play trombone and clarinet/sax respectively and have music degrees, so we have to act like we know how to play in tune when we’re around them. Eric was featured with MCCB and Merion back when he was in school and he also toured with the Glenn Miller Orchestra before he auditioned for the Band of the Air Force Reserve where he met Kara. They are both career musicians and tech sergeants in the Air Force and will soon be transferring out of their base in GA to Wright Patterson AFB in Dayton, OH to play with the Air Force’s Band of Flight.”
John and Diane help out other bands in the area when time permits. These include: the Tri-County, Old Comrades and the LuLu Shrine bands.
“Diane and I both go back quite a way with Steve Frederick. We both were members of the band he formed at North Penn High for the adult education program. We were happy when Paul Ferla was able to talk him into starting MCCB. We have played with Steve and Davis Giersch in many of their Laymen Playmen productions and are extremely happy to be with MCCB and maestro Fred to this day. Our daughter, Joanne, graduated from NPHS and has been a teacher at the high school for many years, having known Steve as a principal there rather than band director.
“If anyone wants to go fishing, I still have my Boson Whaler.”