It could be said that Frank Nelson’s long association with Howard Payne University and Brown County is completing its circle.
Nelson, who graduated from HPU in 1977, came out of retirement recently and has just completed his first semester as the university’s director of bands. Nelson also has a daughter who graduated from HPU.
Nelson replaced Corey Ash, who resigned over the summer to take another job.
Nelson – whose previous jobs included working as band director at Bangs High School – has summer band leadership classes at HPU for the past 20 years.
The son of an Army soldier, grew up in El Paso, began learning the clarinet as a fourth-grade band student after being influenced by his mother, who, he said, presented music “in a great light.”
“For some reason it just appealed to me,” Nelson said in his office Friday, a few minute after directing the band through a rehearsal for its performance at Saturday’s graduation ceremony.
Nelson decided to attend HPU as an undergraduate student after working as a ranch hand at a Baptist encampment near El Paso. The ranch manager, an HPU graduate, talked up the band and the school. Impressed with what he’d heard, Nelson scheduled a campus visit.
Nelson found HPU to be “more like a family than a sterile institution. I never looked any place else,” Nelson said.
After graduating from HPU, Nelson worked as a band director in school districts including El Paso and Azle, then thought he wanted to leave teaching.
Nelson worked for a year as a manager of an Arby’s restaurant in Fort Worth, and had the “unnerving” experience of being robbed by an armed man wearing a ski mask. That made Nelson think he’d had enough of the restaurant business and was ready to return to teaching.
Nelson next worked as a band director in a small Louisiana town called Welsh, where he “did a lot of good eating.”
Nelson’s next stop was the University of Northern Colorado, where he earned a master’s degree in music education. Nelson entered the doctoral program and left after completing all but his dissertation, as he needed to re-enter the work force and earn money.
His next stops consisted of teaching in the Mineral Wells, Temple, Bangs, Waco and Belton.
Nelson entered retirement and returned to El Paso, where he heard that HPU was in need of a band director after Ash’s resignation. Nelson decided to apply and was offered the job.
The Brownwood slogan “Feels Like Home” is “pretty much true,” Nelson said.
When asked to describe the appeal of music, Nelson said, “you can’t really describe it. It’s the feeling I get when I play … that innate love of music I had as a kid … it touches the human spirit much more than words can.
“There’s a beauty in making music with other people. It makes you want to move. It does something to your soul.”
One of the next projects for Nelson will be forming the 2019 edition of the community band. Monday night rehearsals will begin Jan. 14, culminating in a spring concert.