Memories of a Maestro
As director of bands at NC State from 1982 to 1994, Frank Hammond pushed his students to play their instruments better than they thought possible and to perform shows that, at times, seemed ridiculously ambitious. He helped them develop a lifelong love of music that would stay with them as they moved on to careers as engineers or chemists or chefs. And he taught them lessons that had little to do with music.
“I probably learned more from him than any other professor,” says Rob Faggart, a 1993 graduate from China Grove, N.C. “But it was not about music. It was about life, about responsibility, about doing what you loved and doing everything to the best of your ability.”
Hammond died Jan. 7 at his home in Washington, N.C. He was 78. Memorial services were held last week.
Many of Hammond’s former students spent time with him at a surprise reunion in November at the Washington Yacht and Country Club. About 50 students, some of them from as far away at Washington state and Florida, came to honor a man that they considered a mentor and a friend. They each brought their instrument and performed the NC State fight song from memory.
“There are some people that pour into your life and expect nothing in return other than for you to be a better person. That really personifies who he was to me,” says Glenn Massengill of Clayton, N.C., who has three degrees from NC State. “He really gave selflessly of himself and he was so humble. It was always about what you were doing, how much better you could be.”
Massengill, an account executive for Ampacet Corp., couldn’t read music when he came to NC State in 1987. Hammond put him in a rehearsal band, where he learned. Massengill went on to become the field conductor for the marching band. He continues to play the trumpet and other brass instruments, 25 years later.
Jennifer Fuller, a 1991 graduate, recalls Hammond pushing her to play a flute solo with the university’s symphonic band. Fuller, now an engineer with the N.C. Department of Transportation, said she suffered from such terrible stage fright that she could not imaging performing a solo.
“He helped me realize some potential and build some self-confidence. He believed in all of his students. It didn’t occur to him that you couldn’t do it.”
Fuller says Hammond’s lessons often had nothing to do with music. “He was there to bounce off any old problem, what to do with the rest of your life. He was always glad to see you.”