Before They Were Educators: Dr. Bruce Frazier

There are many talented composers and conductors. However, it takes great talent and patience to teach those skills to students. One of those people possessed with talent for teaching and the skill required to do so is Dr. Bruce Frazier, Professor in the School of Music, who joined the Western Carolina University faculty in 1998.

Frazier’s passion for music began as a young child, when he began to take music lessons in piano, clarinet, and singing. He credits the involvement of his early music teachers as the driving force behind his decision to study music in college, such as the mentorship he received from his church choir director.

“At around the age of eleven I became fascinated by composition and conducting and knew that I wanted a career in music,” said Frazier.

Frazier would follow his dreams to the East Carolina University, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Theory and Composition in 1970 and a Master of Music degree in Music Composition in 1972.

“I was a very serious student,” said Frazier. “I also found time to work as the director of a church choir and also in the university recording studio.”

Dedicated to his craft, Frazier spent a lot of time practicing his instruments and developing his music composition skills. He also took values from his conducting teachers such as Dr. James Vail, Rod Eichenberger, and Hans Beer, along with his undergrad composer Gregory Kosteck.

“They taught me to strive for excellence, to complete my tasks in a timely manner, and having a sense of responsibility,” said Frazier.

After his graduation from ECU, Frazier found work as an instructor in music education in Virginia at Portsmouth Public Schools, Christopher Newport College, and Tidewater Community College, all in the mid 1970’s.

Despite the usual angst involved in transitioning from learning as a student to teaching as an instructor, he found the transition smooth, citing his experience as a graduate assistant teaching courses at ECU pivotal to his early success.

After completing some part-time commercial music work while he taught, Frazier took his commercial music full-time in 1978 and moved to Los Angeles to immerse himself in the commercial music business.

“To leave the comfort of a steady job with steady income for the commercial field where the compensation was greater but the work was hectic was a very big step for me,” said Frazier.

During his time in commercial music, Frazier found work conducting orchestras, writing arrangements, and becoming the music director for musicians such as Loretta Lynn, Mac Davis, Ronnie Milsap, and Dolly Parton. He found that working with these household names gave him great experience and fun times as well.

He also found time to build his family, raising a son and daughter at his home in Burbank, Calif.

After delving into the world of television as a conductor and composer, he worked on television productions of “Law and Order” and “Walker Texas Ranger” in the early 90’s. Later in the decade, Frazier earned a Golden Reel Award nomination for his work as a music editor for the television series “JAG” in 1996, along with four Emmy Award nominations for his work on “Dolly” in 1987-88, “Quantum Leap” in 1991-92 and 1992-93, and “SeaQuest DSV” in 1995.

During his television days, Frazier taught a summer music technology workshop at the University of Northern Colorado until 1998, when he was told about the Carol Grotnes Belk Distinguished Professor in Commercial and Electronic Music at WCU.

After receiving the professorship, Frazier moved nearly 3,000 miles from his home near Los Angeles to his home state of North Carolina to teach at Western Carolina University.

Frazier admits that adjusting to the scheduling and overall educational system took a little time, but the aspect of teaching what he had learned with advancements in technology to young people who were interested in a career in commercial and electronic music was a rewarding experience.

During his time at WCU, Frazier has enjoyed composing music for his colleagues and sharing in music making within the academic community. He has done presentations at national conferences and believes he has grown immensely as an educator.

Frazier currently teaches three music classes and works with students to help them complete their senior projects and portfolios, along with helping with performing ensembles like the Catamount Singers. He has also found time to delve into his other lifelong love, painting, and some of his acrylic works are on display in the lobby of the recital hall of the Coulter building.

“Western North Carolina is so beautiful and green and has such a good quality lifestyle,” said Frazier. “I thought I would miss the advantages of the big city, but my family and I go to Asheville and Atlanta to go see musical orchestras and symphony museums whenever we can.”

Part of Frazier’s work with WCU students is to help them to develop their careers before graduation.

“Sharing contacts, writing letters of recommendation, giving advice, and simply supporting them in the work that they do,” said Frazier, “is what makes all the difference.”