Frank Wickes never thought much about titles.

But on Friday, the former LSU director of bands is getting one that the current director of bands believes is long overdue.

Wickes will receive an honorary doctorate of arts degree at the university's spring commencement.

"He's done so much for our program and university," said Damon Talley, current director of bands. “His leadership and wisdom helped shape the LSU Department of Bands into the world-class program it is today, and we are eternally grateful for his continued involvement with our program.”

Wickes served as director of bands from 1980 until his retirement in 2010 and was one of the last at a major university who worked directly with the marching band.

The official announcement about the honorary degree was made in February at the 2019 College Band Directors National Association conference in Tempe, Arizona, where the LSU Wind Ensemble paid tribute to Wickes by performing “Wondrous Love” from Donald Grantham’s “Southern Harmony,” a work Wickes and the LSU Wind Ensemble premiered at the same conference 20 years ago.

"It was a huge surprise," Wickes said. "I'm honored that this is happening even as late as it's happening."

Honorary degrees aren't readily handed out at LSU. Candidates must be nominated with an extensive report of their histories and accomplishments.

And Wickes' history is unusual in that he started his band career on a basketball scholarship at the University of Delaware.

"I played clarinet," he said. "And I had to coordinate my schedule with the music and athletic departments because their rehearsals happened at the same time."

Wickes earned his master's degree in music from the University of Michigan then taught 14 years in the public schools of Delaware and Virginia.

His Fort Hunt High School Band of Fairfax County, Virginia, was honored by the John Philip Sousa Foundation with the Sudler Order of Merit as one of the nation's most outstanding high school programs for the decades 1960 to 1980.

Wickes served at director of bands at the University of Florida from 1973 to 1980, then came to LSU.

For three decades, LSU football fans watched as Wickes conducted the national anthem during the LSU Tiger Marching Band's pregame show.

Wickes' tenure at LSU entailed so much more. He also conducted the LSU Wind Ensemble and taught courses in graduate wind conducting and wind literature. He was honored by LSU in 1999 with an endowed alumni professorship and again in 2000 with a special recognition from the chancellor.

Under Wickes’ direction, the Tiger Band received the Sudler Trophy in 2002 for a distinguished history of marching and performance excellence. Wickes was inducted into the Louisiana Music Educators Hall of Fame in 2009.

Wickes also served as president of the Southern Division presidency of the College Band Directors National Association from 1988 to 1990 and president of the American Bandmasters Association from 1997 to 1998.

But as he sees it, the best fruits of his work are the students who went on to greater accomplishments in the music world.

"I've had former students performing in the four military service bands, and one of our alumni, Don Schofield, is now conductor of the United States Air Force Band," Wickes said.

Schofield received his master's degree in music from LSU.

Alumnus Julie Giroux is now a composer whose works were featured in such films as "White Men Can't Jump," "Broadcast News" and "Blaze," and Wickes' former University of Florida student, Linda Moorhouse, was associate director of bands at LSU before leaving for the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she's now associate director of the School of Music.

Scott Hanna, who graduated from Wickes' program in the late 1980s, is now associate director of bands and director of the Longhorn Marching Band at the University of Texas at Austin.

"Scott was a drum major for the Tiger Band, as was Brad Kent, who's now the state director of music for the Interscholastic Music League in Texas," Wickes said. "There are so many students who went on to do great things that it's hard to name them all. But watching them achieve is what makes this so meaningful."

Wickes' schedule has slowed down in recent years, but that's by choice with the approach of his 82nd birthday in August.

After retirement, he traveled the country, working as clinician and mentor to band programs. He conducted more than 40 all-state honor bands and actively participated in numerous national workshops, including as the National Music Camp at Interlochen, Michigan.

Wickes continues to serve as an adviser to the LSU Department of Bands.

"I only give them advice when I'm asked," he said. "Otherwise, I'm just taking it easy."


Follow Robin Miller on Twitter, @rmillerbr.