In 2008-09, Bayfield Elementary music teacher (and founder/executive director of BFF) Lech Usinowicz, initiated an extra-curricular elementary orchestra. It was free, included 13 students, and was supported by donated and inexpensive instruments sourced through local musicians, parents and online. This was the origin of Be FRANK. In 2013, a Board was formed and 501(c)(3) status achieved. In 2018-19, over 330 students were involved in 23 programs thru Bayfield, Ignacio & Durango schools, including Juniper Charter and 9-R Shared-Home School.
BFF programs enjoy strong parent and educator support, leading to a growing awareness of our mission within the community and improvement in participant numbers, quality of musicianship, training and qualifications of instructors, as well as expansion of programs across La Plata County. BFF’s Board continues to support a major achievement by working with Bayfield Schools to provide instruments for their recently added secondary curricular orchestras.
In 2018, BFF was honored by the Ballantine Family Fund and Community Foundation serving Southwest Colorado with an unsolicited Core Values Grant to help BFF “reach new potential,” noting plans for starting the Creative Music Conservatory as “a vital component to creating a healthy and vibrant community.” In 2018 and 2019, Southwest Ag has awarded BFF their largest allowed sponsorship amount, crediting BFF’s orchestra/DRUM programs for helping make the Bayfield Performing Arts Center a reality. SWAg funds supported the Spring Be FRANK Foundation Elementary Orchestra Festival & Concert at Fort Lewis.
BFF management of 9-R’s extracurricular orchestra programs began in 2016-17. Previously, these programs - with the exception of Riverview - featured just one level of orchestra and relatively few participants. In 2019-20, each 9-R elementary, Juniper Charter and the Shared-Home School program will offer beginning and advanced ensembles, plus an intermediate orchestra at Riverview to help accommodate 65+ participants! Collaborative planning, has brought equity, consistency, shared learner expectations across programs, resulting in positive parents/instructor feedback data.
Currently in progress, BFF will offer two orchestras at Mountain Middle Charter and an Honors Orchestra to replace the recently discontinued San Juan Symphony (SJSO) Junior Orchestra.
Creative Music Conservatory planning included several partnerships: Fort Lewis (facilities), Alamosa- based Mt. Blanca Summer Music Conservatory (MBSMC), (tuition discounts to students who attend both summer experiences, and MBSMC director and University of Northern Colorado strings professor Sarah Off as CMC co-director and instructor). Other 2019 CMC staff include: University of Utah violin/viola professor and former FLC professor, Dr. Kasia Sokol-Borup; San Juan Symphony member & BFF master instructor, Sandy Kiefer; former Durango High/Escalante orchestra director and bluegrass fiddle player Rusty Charpentier; SJSO violinist and BFF instructor, Emily Huntsman; BFF instructor and frontman for his band, recognized for bridging classical and hip hop styles, Alex Blocker; and Escalante Orchestra Director, former BFF instructor and member of both a bluegrass and Celtic band, Dennon Jones. CMC students performed at the Pine River Festival with national strings-rooted artists The Accidentals.