Brackman School’s Music Man says ‘Coda’ to His Career

Jun 07, 2017
Photo by: Jack Reynolds

It was Oct. 1, 1983, when Frank Constantine began working at the Russell Brackman Middle School in Barnegat Township as band director and instrumental music teacher. It was a job he never left, and at the end of the month, the 58-year-old instructor will be retiring.

Constantine already received a send-off when the Barnegat High School band presented its spring concert on May 24. Band Director Anthony Orecchio invited former staff members and students of “Mr. C” to join the group in a tribute. They played “Titans Spirit” from Remember the Titans.

“Between the high school band and the former students and staff members, we had about 130 participate,” Orecchio said. “And there were many, many more in the audience. We did this as a surprise for Frank, for he went to the concert not knowing about this tribute.”

Orecchio said Constantine, who directs Brackman’s jazz and concert bands in addition to individual music instruction, was “always there for his students.”

“He’s made himself available before and after school,” he said. “He did what he could to make them better musicians, but he was very personable and cared for more than their musical abilities. He was there for them if they had a problem they needed to talk about. He was that way with both his students and his colleagues.”

“He epitomizes what it means to be a teacher,” said Brackman Principal John Fiorentino. “He really got the best out of his kids.”

Constantine also received a going-away present as the jazz band received the “best overall trophy for jazz” at the recent Music in the Parks festival at Great Adventure. Eighth-grader Deegan Melchiondo, who plays alto and baritone sax, won a best soloist award.

During his tenure, Constantine has outlasted scores of board of education members as well as administrators, principals and district superintendents.

“I never had any problems with them,” he said. “They gave me the freedom to run the program as I saw fit. It’s also nice that a lot of my former students stay in touch. With my retirement coming, I’ve been getting a lot of text messages wishing me well.”

He said the fact that he hears from so many former students is “a great honor.”

“A lot of teaching involves motivation and encouragement,” said the Galloway Township resident. “I not only want them to improve as musicians, but also to enjoy what they’re doing. It should be a positive experience.”

Sam Meyer, an eighth-grade trumpet player in the jazz band, said Constantine “doesn’t yell” at his students.

“He works with you, and helps you become the best musician you can be,” he said.

“He really connects with us,” said Valerie Scull, an eighth-grader who plays flute and piccolo in the concert band. “He encouraged me to try playing the piccolo since I had already been playing flute.”

Robert Wallace, an eighth-grade trumpeter in the concert and jazz bands, said, “He gave me the confidence to start doing solos. He really believed I could do it.”

Constantine said he hopes to use his free time to get back into performing. He was once the pianist and lead vocalist for the Gary Moss Orchestra, which used to be a fixture at the Barnegat summer concert series.

“I consider myself blessed to have had the opportunity to work with some of the best student musicians anyone can ask for,” he said. “I am deeply thankful for being given the chance to share my gift of music with the wonderful students of Barnegat all these years.”

— Eric Englund

ericenglund@thesandpaper.net

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