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Directors Circle

Nov 26, 2019

In this episode, I have the pleasure of speaking with Mr. Frank Battisti about his views on music and music education. Known affectionately to many of his students as “Mr. B”, Battisti has led a prolific career as an educator at Ithaca High School (NY) and the New England Conservatory. Bonus features of this episode include ideas on the importance of music to the human experience and a remarkable story of an impromptu performance featuring Benny Goodman playing a student’s clarinet. 


Topics include:

(03:02) Battisti talks about his life and professional background

(05:19) The educational objectives of any academic institution 

(07:07) The role of music in a comprehensive education 

(11:32) Finding quality in repertoire selections

(13:00) Getting kids to fall in love with music

(21:45) Using repertoire to build and enrich audiences

(24:41) Using repertoire to build lifelong consumers of music 

(27:47) Getting students to bring out the expressive elements of music

(30:20) Better to illuminate than to shine! 

(35:41) The role of adjudications/contests in music education

(46:41) Battisti shares stories from his career 

(55:47) Favorite rehearsal tactics

(58:25) Why do we teach music? 

(01:00:26) Battisti discusses leaders that have made an impact on his life 

(01:13:53) Measuring the impact educators make on students

(01:05:57) Advice for music educators


Links: Interview with Battisti -

Battisti’s lecture at TMEA 2001 -

New England Conservatory Wind Ensemble Recordings featuring Battisti as conductor -



Frank Battisti began his teaching career as an instrumental teacher in the Ithaca (New York) Public Schools in 1953. He became Director of Bands at Ithaca High School in 1955 and remained there until 1967. He also served as chairperson of the Instrumental Music Department from 1961 - 67. The Ithaca High School Band, under Battisti’s direction, achieved national recognition as one of the finest and most unique high school bands in the nation. The concert band performed at the Ithaca College School of Music, Eastman School of Music, Music Educators National Conference (MENC), Mid-West National Band and Orchestra Clinic (Chicago 1965), Rockefeller Center, the New York World’s Fair (1964) and at other regional and national music events. In 1997 the John Philip Sousa Foundation selected Battisti’s Ithaca High School Concert Band for their Historic Roll of Honor of High School Concert Bands, 1920-1980. Eugene Migliaro Corporon, Director of Wind Studies at North Texas State University, hails the Ithaca High School Band under the leadership of Frank Battisti “as one of the truly great achievements of instrumental music education in the twentieth century.” From 1958 - 67, the Ithaca High School Band commissioned 24 works for band. The commissioned composers included Warren Benson, David Borden, Carlos Chavez, Barney Childs, Walter Hartley, Vincent Persichetti, Armand Russell, Alec Wilder and Pulitzer Prize in Music winners Leslie Bassett, Karel Husa, Robert Ward, Gunther Schuller. Guest soloists and conductors appearing with the Ithaca High School Band from 1955-67 included Benny Goodman, Carl “Doc” Severinson, Donald Sinta, Harvey Phiillips, The New York Brass Quintet, Jimmy Burke, Vincent Persichetti, Norman Dello Joio, Thomas Beversdorf, Clyde Roller, Frederick Fennell, William D. Revelli and Walter Beeler. Battisti was conductor of the Symphonic Wind Ensemble and a faculty member at Baldwin-Wallace College Conservatory of Music from 1967 – 69. In 1969 President Gunther Schuller invited him to come to the New England Conservatory in Boston to start the wind ensemble. Under his 30 years of leadership the ensemble became recognized as one of the premiere ensembles of its kind in the United States and throughout the world. The ensemble recorded for Centaur and Albany records and its performances were broadcast over the National Public Radio Network (NPR) and other classical music radio stations throughout the United States and world. While at the Conservatory Battisti commission works from distinguished national and international composers such as Robert Ceely, John Harbison, Robin Holloway, Witold Lutoslawski, William Thomas McKinley, Michael Colgrass, Daniel Pinkham, Gunther Schuller, Robert Selig, and Sir Michael Tippett. When he retired from the Conservatory in 1999 he was named Conductor Emeritus of the NEC Wind Ensemble. Dr.Battisti has guest conducted numerous university, college, military, professional and high school bands and wind ensembles and served as a visiting teacher/clinician throughout the United States, England, Europe, Middle East, Africa, Scandinavia, Australia, China, Taiwan, Canada, South America, South Korea, Iceland and the former U.S.S.R. Past President of the U.S. College Band Directors National Association (CBDNA), Battisti is also a member of the American Bandmasters Association (ABA) and founder of the National Wind Ensemble Conference, World Association of Symphonic Bands and Ensembles (WASBE), Massachusetts Youth Wind Ensemble (MYWE), New England College Band Association (NECBA) and the Tanglewood Institute’s Young Artists Wind Ensemble. In 1986 and 1993 Dr. Battisti was a visiting fellow at Clare Hall, Cambridge University, England. He is the recipient of many awards and honors including an Honorary Doctor of Music degree from Ithaca College in 1992 and the Ithaca College Alumni Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2003, the first Louis and Adrienne Krasner Excellence in Teaching Award from the New England Conservatory of Music in 1997, the Lowell Mason Award from the Massachusetts Music Educators Association in 1998, the New England College Band Association's Lifetime Achievement Award in 1999, Midwest International Band and Orchestra Clinic's Medal of Honor in 2001 and the National Band Director’ AWAPA in 2006.