Music Producer, Monmouth Professor Ron Frangipane Dies
I was idly scrolling through Facebook when I saw a post from a classmate at Monmouth University that stopped me cold. My college band director, my faculty advisor, my favorite professor, Ron Frangipane, had passed away.
Ron led an amazing life, from his start in the music industry as part of Don Kirshner's hit-making machine. Ron wrote and arranged tunes for lots of the "bubblegum pop" bands, including The Archies. He used to tell an amazing story about how he wrote "Sugar Sugar" at the last minute before it was time to head into the studio to record.
As his career moved on, he worked with icons like Janis Ian, Grace Slick, Gene Simmons, and John Lennon. A look at his AllMusic profile is incredible.
Once he stepped away from the studio life, he started to teach at Monmouth University. When I started classes in 2000, my major was Music Industry, and he was my faculty advisor. Being a drummer, I also joined the band, and spent pretty much my entire college life bouncing between the band and the radio station. I took many classes with Ron, things like "Roots Rock Reggae", about the history of reggae music; "From Blues to Rap", the history of black music in America; and obviously "The Business of Music", which was the main focus of my major. The highlight of any Ron class was the stories he would tell. It seemed like just about anything would trigger a memory in him, and send him off to tell about the time he met some famous singer then was introduced to another person that he ended up arranging songs for. I believe at one point the higher-ups asked him to stick to the lesson plan a bit more, but Ron couldn't be tamed. He was a natural storyteller, and he could hold the attention of a class like no other.
Beyond the classroom, Ron was an amazing band director. He perfectly walked the line between humor and seriousness. He would, like during class, sometimes go off on a tangent, but would always pull it back and get the best performance out of us. One of my favorite memories of rehearsal was his maddening tendency to count the band in with a "one-two-three-f let me tell you about this time that I..." and slam the brakes on a song. Half the band would start the song on the beat, the other half would stop because he stopped. It drove us crazy, but we all grew to love his idiosyncrasy.
During two of my semesters, I was a member of the pit orchestra for the drama department's musical. One year we did "A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum", and Ron would tell us stories about performing the show on Broadway with the legendary Zero Mostel. When you're part of a pit orchestra, you learn the show just as well as the actors, and after hearing the same lines and same punchlines a million times, you start to find ways to entertain yourself. It's a pretty deep inside joke to dive into, but let me just say that another favorite memory involved a hand-written sign that I flashed at Ron during a performance that made him laugh so hard he almost forgot to strike up the band for the next song.
Ron was also a virtuoso of bad jokes. Puns were a specialty, and during my four years, I took pleasure in providing him with a 'ba dum TSS' sting after his punchlines.
We also both loved baseball, and introduced me to one of my favorite phrases, "baseball is zen", which is one of those things I find myself telling people years later when they ask how I watch a "boring" baseball game. There's something soothing about the calmness and rhythm of baseball, and Ron described it perfectly in just three words.
I kept learning new things about Ron even years after I graduated, when I went to watch "The Holy Mountain", a movie by Alejandro Jodorowsky. During the opening credits I saw "Music By: Ron Frangipane", and I was so excited I actually called one of my old classmates.
Ron loved his family, and my heart goes out to them at this time. I cherished my four years at Monmouth with him, and it hurts to know he's gone. The world is a little bit less cool without him here. As Ron would say after playing a John Lennon song, "goodnight sweet prince."
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