The past 24 years I have found myself in the beguiling clutches of the University of Cincinnati, where I have been employed as the director of Bearcat Bands. Now that my body is giving up on me or at least is telling me to stop running up and down stadium steps, riding buses into all hours of the night and working 16-hour days every week, I have begun to wonder: What did I learn at UC?
I have been blessed with a lot of travel with 300 of my closest friends each year. The students in band (all 25,000 that I have taught — including three decades at the high school level) have become my friends. During my years at UC, we have traveled from Massachusetts to California and even from Canada to Mexico. So, I have definitely learned how to organize travel for a large group.
I have also learned that to be band director and have a family life, the entire family needs to be involved. My wife, Debra, served as supervisor for the band twirlers and color guard for 15 years.
Students enter the band with an extremely wide range of talent and personalities — teaching me that great people and great talent can come from anywhere. Students of all backgrounds, levels of training, ethnicities and genders make up a band.
I have learned that if students can play an instrument, want to participate and want to get better, they’ll succeed far more than they ever thought. One of the great by-products of playing in any band is not only the camaraderie but the actual improvement in intellect. In order to perform music, the left and right sides of the brain must interact with each other, and that process is vital to many other disciplines. My students realize that our experience together is not always about the music.
I’ve helped young adults truly recognize that “learning is about the journey” as much as it is about the knowledge component. We all learn that “life is about what happens to you while you are preparing for it.”
It is very safe to say that I have learned more than my students in this chapter of life. I have met thousands of wonderful people while teaching and learning at UC. It will forever be part of my life.
Terren Frenz retires as director of Bearcat Bands in June. His charity, The Brass Factory Foundation, has provided scholarships for trumpet players attending college.