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Guy J. Frank

October 02, 2010|By RICHARD F. BELISLE | richardb@herald-mail.com
  • Guy Frank was an active musician well into old age and a master performer, from jazz to Beethoven.
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SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. — On Sept. 25, friends and relatives entered Trinity Episcopal Church in Shepherdstown to the strains of “Symphonic Triptych,” Guy J. Frank’s ode to his beloved university and community.

If his life is to be remembered as having been lived well, it’s because of the legacy and progeny he left behind.

Guy died peacefully in his sleep on Aug. 24 at the age of 91. His wife, Alice, died in 1972 at age 49. He leaves a daughter, Merideth Frank, who cared for him in his final years.

Guy was born May 9, 1919, in Los Angeles, the son of Anthony Saltalamachia and Alice Mahan. His father later changed the family name to Frank.

“Guy was a true blessing to this town,” Pastor G.T. Schramm said in eulogizing Frank. “He is especially loved for the way he took a special interest in each person, hearing them, taking their concerns to heart.”

Guy was most memorable for his music, G.T. said.

“Guy was pure music and he possessed a remarkable talent with which he blessed the town and the university,” G.T. said

Guy always said it was music that saved his feet in World War II.

As G.T. tells it, Guy, a sergeant in the 29th Division in Europe, had been wounded in his feet. A ranking officer, against advice of doctors, insisted that Guy march with his unit to the next battle front.

A colonel who appreciated his music heard of the order. He put Guy and a piano on a truck so he could play “Roses of Picardy,” the colonel’s favorite song, whenever he wanted to hear it.

Mark McCoy, chair of Shepherd University’s Music Department and Guy’s protoge, met him when Mark was a student in the early 1980s.

Guy was hired to teach music at Shepherd in 1951, at the time one of just two music teachers at the school.

“Guy founded the music department,” Mark said. “He hired the people who became the department. Before that, there were only a few courses here and there. He started the school band and was its first director.”

Guy eventually became chair of the school’s Creative Arts Division. He designed the building that bears his name, The Frank Center for the Performing Arts. It opened on a hilltop overlooking the campus in 1981.

The center’s 450-seat auditorium stages productions, performances and concerts throughout the year. The Contemporary American Theater Festival produces plays there. Symphony orchestras perform on its stage.

Friends of Music, a support group for the music department, sponsors 10 concerts a year at the center. Two weeks ago, the Twin Rivers Chamber Orchestra opened its season on its stage. This weekend, the Appalachian Heritage Festival returned for its annual production.

“Everybody at Shepherd lives in Guy Frank’s debt,” Mark said. “The success of the music department stands on his shoulders. He invented it all.”

Guy was an active musician well into old age and a master performer, from jazz to Beethoven, Mark said.

“He could play anything,” Mark said. “When Guy played a piece the first time he’d play, it was written. The second time he played it, it would be dressed to the hilt with great soaring moments.

“I’d ask him to play some obscure tune and he’d say, ‘Give me first note and I’ll follow.’ He could realize anything on the piano.”

“My father always credited his musical sensibility to his Italian heritage,” Merideth said.

A large bouquet of flowers sat on a table on Merideth’s living room last week. It was sent by Annette Shiver Day of Peachtree, Ga. Frank had been her teacher. Her note read, “I am the person I am today because of Guy Frank.”

Guy composed his three-movement “Symphonic Triptych” well after he retired from Shepherd in 1984.

The symphony first was performed at the arts center in June 1997. It was last performed there Oct. 17, 2009.

Guy was too ill to make it to the center, so the performance was broadcast over the university’s radio station. He listened to it at home.

The symphony’s first movement, “Shepherdstown Viva,” honors his community. The second, “Potomac Interlude,” represents the beauty of the area, and the third movement, “Millbrook Fair,” interprets Guy’s love of music and his university.

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