Music junior Stroup loves to perform and innovate

Photo of Frank Stroup playing trumpet
Photo of Frank Stroup playing trumpet

Music junior Stroup loves to perform and innovate

calendar icon10 May 2013    

Frank Stroup, a junior from Lincoln, Neb., was inspired by his first trumpet teacher to go into music education, but he wanted to be sure to continue performing at the same time.

“I love playing,” Stroup, a music education major, said. “If I had (a teacher’s) certificate and can perform, it will be such a strong musical career.”

One of Stroup’s current professors said he has been able to find a good balance between performing and understanding the ways of an educator.

“He’s really making that transformation from being just a musician and music student to being a teacher and being somebody who is not just concerned with his own musician ship,” Robert Woody, associate professor of music education, said. “He’s starting to really take the perspective of ‘How can I facilitate other people’s music making?’”

From beginner to collegiate musician

Stroup first began playing the trumpet in sixth grade. He was drawn to it because he liked the way the trumpet sounds. Along with enjoying making music and playing in jazz band, Stroup found other reasons to stick with it.

“I really didn’t like the singing out of the hymnal (during morning mass) and joined band to avoid that,” Stroup said. “I will freely admit that is not the best reason to get involved in band, but that’s why I did it at first. Then I liked it.”

As a kid, Stroup went to Husker football games and watched the marching band.

“I didn’t know if I was going to go to UNL at that point, but I knew that I wanted to be in a college marching band,” he said. “What they were doing looked really cool and sounded really cool. Whenever I saw them outside or the stadium, they always looked like they were having a lot of fun and they looked like they were really good friends. I wanted that too.”

Stroup said he enjoyed band camp in high school because he met people the week before school started and already had friends.

“I could walk down the hall as a freshman on the first day, and a senior would say hi to me,” he said. “I don’t know how you would get that otherwise.”

Stroup began taking lessons with Associate Professor Darryl White before he started college.

“I thought he had good focus, and he was pretty determined,” White said. “One thing I knew for sure was that he was going to be a very teachable student. I’m living proof that being teachable is sometimes more beneficial or can garner more success than having a lot of talent and not trying very hard.”

Throughout working with Stroup in college, White said he enjoyed watching Stroup improve and compared it to watching one’s child grow up and seeing their level of success.

“It’s fun to watch the light bulb come on when you’ve been trying to explain something for three years,” White said. “It’s just fun to watch the progress. I think any teacher could say that in any discipline . . . that’s why we’re here.”

Stroup finds times for a variety of activities

Stroup is involved with numerous music ensembles. This semester alone he was in a wind ensemble, jazz orchestra, Big Red Express, a jazz combo, show choir band and brass quintet. He is also a member of UNL’s Cornhusker Marching Band.

Time management and careful scheduling has been important for Stroup with practicing for ensembles and being the ASUN Senator for the Hixson-Lied College.

“Most students seem to feel like they are so occupied with their musical studies that they feel like they don’t have time to do that,” Woody said. “I think (Stroup) makes enough time to do that.”

Woody said he has always been impressed with Stroup’s involvement in and out of the School of Music.

“I’m amazed at all of these students around here that find time to do what they do and Frank really does stand out for just how involved he is,” Woody said. “He’s just a nice guy. I think he has a social life too. I don’t know how he manages that as well, but he does.”

Stroup said music is an interesting course of study and different, yet similar, to the other forms of art.

“If you think about it, similar to the way dancers are training their bodies for dance, we’re taking one of the five senses, our hearing, and we’re training it and perfecting it for a very specific task,” he said. “It’s really interesting from that perspective.”

Stroup explained that an important aspect of studying music, or any art, is being open to all genres.

“I listen to symphonies and Taylor Swift,” Stroup said. “I don’t have any shame in admitting I like pop songs. I don’t have any shame in admitting I played in a polka band. I think the more depth you can get, especially as an educator, means more opportunities for your students.”

Stroup added music technology to his studies because he said he feels that is the direction in which music education is going.

“I think that it’s really important if you want to stay current with where music is going to go,” he said. “You have to be aware of that and you have to know how to use (musical software) . . . I’m not doing music technology specifically for music technology, I’m doing it as a tool to teach.”

Creating a jazz improv program for learning students

For his honors thesis project, Stroup is creating a program to help students compile their own improvisations for jazz music.

“That’s what jazz soloing is: how to take licks and make them your own and apply that to future jazz solos,” Stroup said.

Photo of Frank Stroup playing trumpet

The program consists of different chord changes and licks to put together and create a new improv while telling the musician how to play it.

“It would give them an introduction to jazz, and introduction to improvising and taking that fear out of improvising,” Stroup said. “A lot of kinds think they’ll hit a wrong note, but now you know what to play and what will work.”

Stroup has formatted the program to be for any instrument, including the drums.

“In the jazz setting whenever you talk about improv, the drum set is often neglected because it doesn’t have any notes, necessarily,” he said.

Stroup said he doesn’t think it will be a completely separate program and isn’t sure whether or not to make it an app.

“If you can have (the real book app iReal, which has a collection of jazz songs and chord changes), why not have a bunch of licks with those chord changes illustrated for students,” he said.

Woody said he believes Stroup is an innovator.

“Some of our music students, they maybe came from a good high school program and they looked up to their band director or choir director and thought ‘I want to be like that,’ but Frank is not like that,” Woody said. “He’s not trying to be someone else. I think he really is forging his own professional path . . . He wants to do new things. He wants to merge his own creative interests and his own desires to do new things, his desire to innovate. He wants to merge that with what a music teacher does.”

White said he believes no matter what Stroup does after school, he will still do well.

“If he decided not to pursue trumpet as a profession, he will still be successful because he is so focused on accomplishing whatever he sets his mind to,” White said. “He could go into a completely different discipline and be successful.”

- Ally Phillips, College of Journalism and Mass Communications