As the 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.
Many of Hammond’s former students spent time with Hammond 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, who sells plastic additives and colorants as an account executive for Ampacet Corp., couldn’t read music when he came to NC State in 1987 and, as a result, did not make the cut when he first tried out for the marching band. But he said Hammond put him in a rehearsal band, where he learned to play music. Massengill went on to become the field conductor for the marching band, and he continues to play the trumpet and other brass instruments today.
“I wasn’t the most talented person, but what he did was really push me beyond what I thought my potential was,” he says. “I still play today, and it’s been 25 years. He said that music could be part of your life and not consume your life.”
Jennifer Fuller, a 1991 graduate, recalls Hammond pushing her to play a flute solo with the university’s symphonic band. Fuller, who is 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 pushed me to do things that I really wasn’t comfortable doing musically,” she says. “He pushed me, and I’m glad he did. 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 set high standards for the band and helped each member play better. But she said his lessons often had nothing to do with music. “If you were having trouble with something musically, he was there for you,” she says. “But 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.”
Faggart says he continues to benefit from Hammond’s lessons, noting that he recently decided to follow his passion by enrolling in culinary school. “He just had a real passion for life that came through in everything he did,” he says. “He got extremely excited about everything we did.”
Visitation will be held at Hammond’s home at 129 Fairway Drive, Washington, N.C., from 4-7 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 12. A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. on Friday, Jan. 13, at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Washington.