Summer Music Clinic helps alum snare his place in UW Marching Band

Elliott Frank stands smiling in the foreground. He is wearing a UW Marching Band uniform and has snare drum attached to his front. The the blurred background there are other members of the UW Marching Band, in the stands while watching an unseen event.Photo: Pathum Karunaratne/UW SMPH Media Solutions


By his own admission, Elliott Frank’s first-ever audition with University of Wisconsin Marching Band Director Corey Pompey did not go as hoped. “I believe that you need to fail one audition to have a good second attempt,” Frank says good-naturedly of the experience.

A recent high school graduate at the time, Frank was attending UW–Madison’s Summer Music Clinic (SMC) to develop his percussion skills and help smooth his transition from high school to his future university. His audition with Pompey was for a place in SMC’s concert band.

For more than 90 years, Badger Precollege’s Summer Music Clinic has offered students completing grades 6–12 a unique opportunity to enhance their music skills in classes ranging from band and orchestra to modern expressions and hip-hop. Working with experienced music educators and musicians from around the U.S., students develop skills to collaborate as musicians and find their creative voice.

For Frank, part of that music education was learning to make the most of a disappointing audition.

“That first audition at SMC helped me get my nerves out. When I had the opportunity to audition for Dr. Pompey again later in the summer — this time for the UW Marching Band — I was better prepared and felt more confident and comfortable. And obviously, my second audition was better because I’m now a proud snare drummer in the University of Wisconsin Marching Band!”

Drumming up new skills

Frank’s journey to the Badger Band didn’t start in Wisconsin; it began in his home state of New Hampshire.

Before he attended SMC after his senior year in high school, Frank spent his summers at the Summer Youth Music School at the University of New Hampshire, where he was also a member of the youth band. During his senior year of high school, he mentioned to one of the program directors, Mark DeTurk, that he would be attending UW–Madison.

Six high school students stand performing percussion instruments in front of an audience. Five students play the snare drum and one plays the cymbals.
Elliott Frank, center, performs with fellow percussionists at Summer Music Clinic in 2022.

“[DeTurk] told me that he had been a professor in the University of Wisconsin system for many years before heading to New Hampshire,” Frank recalls. “He knew UW–Madison well and recommended that I look into Summer Music Clinic to bridge the gap between high school and college and use it to adjust to the campus.”

Frank enrolled at SMC and immediately found his musical home in percussion. Classes in conducting and arranging helped give him a new perspective on music not only as a performer but also as a composer.

Not surprisingly, Frank’s favorite course was drumline. “Neither my high school band director nor my private drum instructor at home knew drumline like the instructor at SMC. He was knowledgeable, enthusiastic and helped me improve tremendously in a short amount of time.”

Frank also got to know his fellow SMC peers. He and a fellow percussionist even practiced their audition exercises and warmups during their free time, which eventually helped them both prepare for the marching band auditions. Today, they’re both members of the UW drumline.

Marching to the Badger beat

As his New Hampshire advisor predicted, enrolling at SMC also helped Frank get to know the UW–Madison campus and solidified his decision to join the marching band as a freshman. “Between the drumline course and meeting countless people at SMC who had nothing bad to say about the Badger Band, I knew that I had to become a member,” he says.

Elliott Frank takes the field with the UW Marching Band in Phoenix at the 2022 Guaranteed Rate Bowl. Photo: Pathum Karunaratne/UW SMPH Media Solutions.

Despite the challenging pre-season rehearsals (aka Reg Week) and a major time commitment, Frank, who is majoring in industrial engineering, hasn’t regretted this decision for an instant.

“Joining the UW Marching Band has pushed me to become a better musician and more athletic,” he says. “It allows me the opportunity to stay creative and connected to music.”

Some of his favorite moments of the past season included taking the field during pregame for the first time, entertaining crowds in drumline rounds before the games and having fun with fellow drumline members. “I didn’t join the band strictly for the music, I joined it because of the community that comes with it,” he adds.

He credits his experience at Summer Music Clinic with providing a great introduction to UW–Madison, something he particularly appreciates as an out-of-state student.

“SMC allowed me to experience the culture, work with faculty and staff and get comfortable with the campus before the chaos of auditioning for the marching band and my freshman year. There’s no doubt that it was a good decision to attend SMC, even just for one year.”

Registration for Summer Music Clinic 2023 is open until May 1. The Junior Session for students completing grades 6–8 takes place June 18–24, and the Senior Session for students completing grades 9–12 is June 25–July 1. A limited number of full and partial scholarships are granted, based on financial need.