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Boca Ciega band director Frank Williams inducted into Drum Corps International Hall of Fame

Frank Williams, directing a youth jazz band at the 2006 Clearwater Jazz Holiday, is now in the Drum Corps International Hall of Fame.

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times (2006)

Frank Williams, directing a youth jazz band at the 2006 Clearwater Jazz Holiday, is now in the Drum Corps International Hall of Fame.


Several months back, Frank Williams was teaching a highly technical jazz improvisation and theory class when he heard a noise he didn't like.

It wasn't an off note.

Worse, it was his cell phone ringing over and over.

Annoyed, he turned it off.

Then a colleague's phone started ringing nonstop.

Something big was going on. The colleague handed the phone to Williams, and the voice on the other end said, "Congratulations, you've been elected to the Drum Corps International Hall of Fame."

"I was kind of in shock, I think," said Williams, the lead jazz instructor and coordinator of jazz studies at the Marcia P. Hoffman Performing Arts Institute at Ruth Eckerd Hall.

Williams, who also serves as band director at Boca Ciega High School, was inducted Wednesday in Indianapolis.

The Drum Corps International Hall of Fame is where legends of drum corps music are honored. Including Williams, there are 92 members in the hall.

Williams, 60, was born in Sarasota. He was in the eighth grade singing in a choir class that he "absolutely hated'' when a man came in looking for a kid to join the band.

The man told Williams he had a set of teeth that would make him a great trombone player.

But "I was probably the worst player in the band," Williams remembered. "He gave me a D minus. The only reason he didn't give me an F was because I had perfect attendance."

Spanking still was allowed in school, and he was paddled. Then when he got home, his parents took turns whipping him, making it "a long night."

"It was a rather cruel correction, but it was a needed correction,'' he said.

Not wanting to repeat the experience, he began to practice and soon became the leader of the trombone section, first chair.

Now, "no matter how bad a kid is, I see the possibilities," Williams said. "I know what my journey was like. Kids have no limits."

Williams graduated with honors in 1966 from Sarasota's Booker High School. In 1970, he graduated with a bachelor's degree in music education from Florida A&M University. In 1977, he got his master's in music from State University of New York.

Along the way, he married his high school sweetheart, Paulette, and had three children, Frank, 41, Gregory, 36, both professional musicians, and Kamilah, 15.

In 1981, he began teaching at Boca Ciega with the goal of inspiring and challenging students. Five years ago, he joined the Marcia P. Hoffman Performing Arts Institute.

One of his students was BK Jackson, who in 2008 wowed baseball fans at Game 7 of the American League Championship Series between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Boston Red Sox by playing the Star-Spangled Banner on his sax.

Jackson was in eighth grade playing with his middle school band when he heard Williams conducting Hillsborough's All County Jazz Band.

"I could hear him going at these kids; it was like jazz boot camp,'' Jackson said.

He went over and told Williams he wanted to be in his band.

"He looked at me like I was crazy, but I was eating it up,'' Jackson said.

Williams called him that summer to ask Jackson, then 15, to be a part of the Ruth Eckerd conservatory. He left a voice mail.

Jackson played there three years and is now preparing to go to Florida A&M on a music scholarship.

Williams taught Jackson not to fear improvisation. He talked to him about Charlie Parker and that he didn't just wake up one day a legend.

Jackson said he feels blessed to have "been around strong teachers'' such as Williams.

Williams said the biggest joy is watching kids "accomplish something they never thought they could do."

Eileen Schulte can be reached at or (727) 445-4153.

Boca Ciega band director Frank Williams inducted into Drum Corps International Hall of Fame 08/05/09 [Last modified: Friday, August 7, 2009 12:12pm]
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