Fredrick Lange

Honored for Outstanding Contributions to High School Music Education

Courtesy Of Tom Deininger

Pat Lange remembers the first time she laid eyes on her future husband at UC Davis. It was 1967 and the Aggies football team was playing Sac State. Fred Lange was not the quarterback. He was the trumpet player in the Maverick marching band.

It was not the band, however, that made an impression on Pat. It was Fred Lange himself. Stricken with polio at eleven months of age, Lange suffered partial to total paralysis over three-quarters of his body. Through determination and extensive physical therapy, Lange regained the use of his right arm, allowing him to take up the trumpet in the fifth grade.

“The great thing about music is that there is no other discipline or study where you can see so much improvement over time, especially at the elementary level,” said Lange. “You can go from knowing nothing about music to being a performer in a matter of months.” By high school, Lange was already teaching music to others through private lessons.

Lange went on to UC Davis to pursue a math degree, but found himself spending far more time in the music building on campus. “If you are looking for money, music is definitely not the place to get it. But if music is a passion in your life, if it’s all you can think about, then you need to follow that,” said Lange. Eventually, he completed his undergraduate studies in music, and received his masters degree in musicology at the same institution in 1974.

During a time when music programs were being eliminated, Lange accepted a position as director of the UC Davis Aggie Band for $100 a month. A charter member of the UC Davis Jazz Band, Lange began directing that group in 1976 as well, a position he held for fifteen years without pay. “Fred did it gratis for the love of the music,” said Celia Cottle, a former student who became the first female musician in the UC Davis Jazz Band under Lange’s direction. “He’s been a mentor to me. A lot of the things that I do with my own bands are modeled on what he’s taught me, following his example. He demands excellence because he loves the music so much.”

Lange also began teaching music part time at Holy Rosary School in Woodland. By 1976, he was developing a band program at Woodland Christian School as well. During times of cutbacks, Lange sustained his feeder programs through after-school, tuition-based lessons. In 1986, Lange accepted a 40% position as director of the jazz and concert bands at Davis High School. At the time, there were thirteen students enrolled, of which five had turned in drop slips. By the following year, enrollment was over one hundred.

In 1989, Lange’s contract was extended to 60%, and the Davis High band was divided into a concert band, composed primarily of sophomores, and a symphonic band made up of seniors plus juniors and sophomores by audition. By September 1999, Lange was working full-time with the Davis Joint Unified School District, expanding his assignment to include 40% elementary studies.

Currently, Lange works with 150 students in several bands at Davis High School, and an additional 95 students at Patwin and Cesar Chavez Schools. Known as a perfectionist, Lange expects his students to perform beyond their perceived abilities, and they rarely disappoint him. His bands have competed successfully at many festivals, from the Capitol Division Golden Empire Festival at CSUS to the River Fest Jazz Festival in New Orleans. Students like Liz Lowry, Carl Schimke, Quinn and Dustin Johnson, and Mark Inouye have gone on to become successful professional musicians.

A sense of humor is an important part of Lange’s professional repertoire as well. A charter member of the Davis Comic Opera Company, Lange began serving as musical director in 1981, and has since conducted twenty productions for DCOC. “If you can’t laugh in community theater, you’re in a world of hurt!” said Charlotte French, director and choreographer for the DCOC. “Fred has a great sense of humor, and the people who played for him were very loyal to him.” Nominated for three Sacramento Area Regional Theater Alliance “Elly’s,” Lange won for best musical director for DCOC’s production of Ken Ludwig’s “Sullivan and Gilbert” in 1995.

Lange has previously been honored by the City of Davis with the A. J. Brinley Award for Special Service to the Community in 1990, by the Highwheelers “Harmony in Our Lives” Award in 1991, and by the Capitol Section of the California Music Educators as Music Educator of the Year 1996. Lange will receive the Award for Outstanding Contributions to High School Music Education at the JAMMIES 2004 Classical Evening at the Mondavi Center.

“Being honored by one’s peers is an extraordinary experience,” Lange acknowledged, “but music is my life and joy, and it is both a privilege and my personal fulfillment to open the minds, hearts, and creative abilities of my students to the rewards of having music in their lives.”