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Band director marks 2 milestones

| Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2012, 9:42 p.m.
For The Mt. Pleasant Journal
Frederick Collins, Mt. Pleasant Area Senior High School’s director of bands, marks 20 years on the job this year. He is pictured in a photo taken in November 2012. Linda Harkcom | For The Mt. Pleasant Journal

Frederick Collins — Mt. Pleasant Area Senior High School's director of bands — marked one milestone last year and he is completing another one this year.

The 2011-2012 school year was Collins' 20th year with the district and he has just entered his 30th year of guiding high school students in their music education.

“This has been just a great community with great family values. The kids have a really good idea of what it takes to succeed and the parental support that we get for the kids is just so important in education, in general,” Collins said.

Collins originally began college as a premed student but eventually followed his families legacy of teaching and music.

“I came from educators. My grandmother taught in Pittsburgh for 70 years. I had a lot for teachers in the family. I was always involved in music from a very young age and my dad was actually a musician who played in bands in the Pittsburgh area so I guess I got the love of music from him,” he said.

Collins taught at schools in Pittsburgh, the state of Indiana and Frederick, Md., before coming to Mt. Pleasant Area in June of 1992.

He actually almost became a Scottie instead of a Viking.

He interviewed for director of bands positions at both Mt. Pleasant and Southmoreland over a weekend visit. Officials made the first offer and secured Collins as what would end up being its second, long-term band director.

“The average lifespan of a high school band director nationally is five years, which is pretty similar to coaches,” Collins said. “In the past 43 years, Mt. Pleasant has only had two band directors. People have asked me many times why Mt. Pleasant has such a strong band program and that is what I attribute it to — consistency.”

Collins said, in addition to the quality of kids and support from the parents, he also credits the administration as a reason he has stayed on at Mt. Pleasant.

“We have had tremendous support from the district both financially and otherwise,” he said.

When students realized at the end of last school year that it was his 20th anniversary, they surprised him by filling his office from floor to ceiling with balloons.

“I always think of him as my father away from home. Whenever kids have a problem he is always someone you can go to. He always tries to help the kids as much as he can,” said Senior Drum Major Natalie Cope, 17, of Mt. Pleasant Township.

The band boosters also wanted to thank Collins for his years of dedication to the program. They plan to honor him Saturday during their Night at the Races fundraiser which will be held at 5:30 p.m. at the Mt. Pleasant Polish Falcons.

“This is a man who does so much for the children in the band, yet he really doesn't get much recognition because it's ‘just part of his job',” said Andrea Pritts, president of the MPAHS Band Boosters. “Yet, he and his wife haven't had a Friday night in September and October to themselves since the day they were married. He was busy directing the kids at a band festival the day his youngest child was born. And many, many of his summertime days and nights are spent either directing the kids in band camp or preparing for the season.”

Pritts continued.

“He's the first one to arrive, and the last one to leave,- often waiting extra long with kids whose parents are late because they're working or sleeping. Yet, he doesn't get a whole lot of thanks.”

During Saturday's event, Collins will be presented with a recognition plaque during small commemorative program that will include some photos and tributes from band members.

“He is so much a part of this Viking Tower of Power band family, and this is just one small way to pay tribute to that,” Pritts said.

Tickets for the event are sold out. Since it is a fundraiser benefitting the band, donations can be mailed to: Mt. Pleasant Area Viking Band, P.O. Box 634, Mt. Pleasant, PA 15666.

Linda Harkcom is a freelance writer.