Larry Frazier, Teacher with a Gentle Touch, to Retire

Monday, May 14, 2012

In Larry Frazier’s first floor classroom, Dan Chalfont, a retired schoolteacher, sang “Bella Siccome un Angelo” from “Don Pasquale” during a private lesson. Chalfont waved his hands in the air – conducting himself. Frazier accompanied on the piano. He waited until Chalfant paused.

In Larry Frazier’s first floor classroom, Dan Chalfont, a retired schoolteacher, sang “Bella Siccome un Angelo” from “Don Pasquale” during a private lesson. Chalfont waved his hands in the air – conducting himself. Frazier accompanied on the piano. He waited until Chalfant paused.“You know this aria, I know you do,” Frazier said. “See if you can put all the energy into it without conducting yourself.”

It was classic Frazier: a gentle praise first, then the correction.

“I’m driven,” he said later. “But I’ve found I get better results encouraging them, instead of hammering them on what they do wrong.”

The lessons he has taught in this first floor office/classroom will come to an end soon. Frazier, the director of the UWG Opera Workshop, is teaching his last class this summer — music appreciation — at the University of West Georgia.

It is the end of a teaching career that began in 1988. Frazier arrived on campus from Opera Memphis, where he was the director of community outreach. He was still singing professionally, but his son was two years old. Frazier and his wife liked what Carrollton had to offer the young family – a small town with good schools and proximity to Atlanta.

“I liked the university because the department was large enough to offer opportunities like opera for the students. But small enough that I could use several talents – not just teaching voice all day long,” Frazier said recently.

“I taught voice, directed the opera and related courses. I had to be somewhat of a specialist in the vocal area, but also a generalist. I liked that mix.”

The mix of classes he taught is reflected in his first floor office in the Humanities building. Handbills printed on yellow, pink and gray paper are pressed in a plastic frame. A red, silver and black matador cutout is propped up against a chalkboard. There is Snoopy’s doghouse. Books and sheet music rest atop Schroeder’s piano and bench. There are painted cherubs and opera posters throughout the red-carpeted room. They all have a home here, alongside the Steinway & Sons concert grand piano Frazier uses to nurture talent and inspire students.

It is Frazier’s mix of skills – voice, opera and piano -- that will be hard to replace, said Kevin Hibbard, professor and chair of the Department of Music. The two were among the faculty who arrived on campus in 1988. They became friends and fellow golfers.

“His predecessor, Inge Lundeen, had been with the Metropolitan Opera and was very well established,” Hibbard said. “He didn’t miss a beat. He picked it right up, started working with the opera workshop.”

When Frazier arrived on campus, the opera workshop regularly performed scenes from several works, rather than full productions. “I thought we had the potential to do full productions,” said Frazier, a Louisiana native. “My idea was to do it with undergraduates, primarily. And that’s proved to be pretty successful for the program. We are probably the most active undergraduate opera program in the state.”

By a modest estimate, some 2,000 students have been under Frazier’s tutelage. He’s put many of them on stage. His first production, in the spring of 1989, was “Brigadoon,” a collaboration between the theatre and music departments. It was the first show in the Performing Arts Center, now the Townsend.

The next year he produced “The Marriage of Figaro.” Other operas followed: “Don Giovanni,” “The Mikado,” “The Magic Flute,” “Gianni Schicchi,” “La Traviata,” “La Boheme,” “Così Fan Tutte,” “Susannah.” The list seems endless, like his knowledge of the works.

The opera workshop produced “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” in fall 2011. Then in March audiences packed the Townsend on two nights for Georges Bizet’s “Carmen.” Artist Steve Penley collaborated with Frazier on the show, creating a painting for each of the opera’s four scenes. Frazier also connected with Carrollton resident Maggie Head, the executive vice president at Fortmetco. The outdoor advertising giant used a proprietary process to transform Penley’s paintings into 22-foot-by-45-foot scenic drops for the production.

“Carmen” tapped his connector gifts. Frazier also brought in the Carroll Community Wind Ensemble and the Carroll Symphony. The UWG Choir served as the opera’s chorus.

Bizet’s opera was “top to bottom the strongest production I have been able to do since coming here,” Frazier said. “After ‘Carmen’ I don’t see how I could top this year. I thought this is time. It’s hard to let go. But there wouldn’t be an easier or better time to do it.”

Although he’s retiring from UWG Frazier is already booked. Frazier will perform in the “Marriage of Figaro” with the Peach State Opera in September. He also plans to keep his Sunday morning radio program, “Hymn of the Week,” on WKNG-AM. He plans to continue as the voice on Larry’s Losers, a Friday night pre-game show on WBTR-FM and KISS-FM, predicting the outcomes of high school football games.

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Photo caption:
Longtime professor Larry Frazier will retire this year. A retirement reception is scheduled for June 27 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. in the Campus Center Ballroom.