Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 11, 2007
Conductor weaves music into band members' lives
Francis Dunnigan gives his best to the band students and expects the same in return
By RAMON GONZALEZ
"Frank has contributed his passion and love for music and also his love for students."
- Joan Carr
The Edmonton-born Dunnigan holds an associate degree in violin performance and a bachelor of education from the University of Alberta and a master of music from the University of Oregon.
He conducted the University of Alberta Symphony Orchestra during his student years. Since 2002, he has been artistic director of the Concordia Symphony Orchestra.
He also conducts Musical Theatre at Festival Place and the Easter pageant Love According to John, which is performed each season at the Jubilee Auditorium. Music festival season is always a busy time as he is the adjudicator and clinician at festivals every spring.
"Obviously he has a deep passion and love of music," said Ray McLellan, music consultant with Edmonton Catholic and former member of the all-city band under Dunnigan. "He's committed to being there and working with our students and providing opportunities for our staff as well. He is a fabulous conductor."
McLellan played in the band for three years, from 1973 to 1975. "Obviously he inspired my love for music and my want to become a teacher eventually down the road too," he said. "Frank has influenced a lot of people. There are people now who play at symphony orchestras that were in that band and we have other teachers in our district that played in Frank's band."
The band, which plays anything from marches to transcriptions, routinely performs in festivals around and outside the province and has performed in many special events such as the papal Mass during John Paul II's visit to Edmonton in 1984 and for Queen Elizabeth during her visit in May last year.
"He is absolutely amazing with what he can do with teaching music to students," said Tamara Rivers, director of the junior all-city band and a teacher for 12 years. "What he gets students to do and how he instructs them is superior to many conductors."
Dunnigan has a gift for instilling love for music in students and for inspiring them to strive for excellence, said Rivers, who was a member of the all city-band some 20 years ago.
"He always expects the best," she said. "He never accepts laziness or anything like that. He just pushes them to where he thinks they should be and encourages students to do that themselves."
The district presented Dunnigan with a special musical baton at a special presentation following the concert.
- WCR photo by Ramon Gonzalez
Trumpeters know that conductor Francis Dunnigan expects the best from them.
"I think, if anything, Frank has contributed his passion and love for music and also his love for students and the opportunity for students to grow and develop and become just exceptional artists in their own way under his direction," said district superintendent Joan Carr, one of several school officials present at the concert.
Rivers, who emceed the event, believes Dunnigan has stuck around because he still has a lot he needs to pass on to students.
"He's not done teaching kids all that he can teach them," she said. "He is still able to inspire kids to do their best and he doesn't get tired of it and he finds enjoyment in doing it and I think that's really important."
The band is primarily made up of students who want to play in it. "I announce auditions and students come," Dunnigan said. "I don't necessarily have the students who have the most skill. I have students who want to come and play.
"Now they have to be able to play so I do listen to them before they come in to make sure that they meet the standard. But there are lots of good players in the schools that I don't have. They are just too busy doing other things."
Over the years some, but far from all, band members have gone into music as a career.
"The purpose of this (band) is not to prepare people for a career in music," clarified Dunnigan. "The purpose as far as I can see is to keep people interested in music so they would play throughout their lives."
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