Editor, McLerran Journal
Assistant Band Director, Center ISD, TX
I had the pleasure of studying with Professor Allen during my time at SFASU. He is charismatic, well-spoken, and genuinely cares about the success of his students.
Professor Fred J. Allen is currently the Director of Bands at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas where he also teaches graduate conducting and music education classes. He is an internationally recognized composer, conductor, educator, and woodwind specialist.
Professor Allen holds a Bachelor’s degree in Music Education from Abilene Christian University and a Master’s of Music Education from Texas A&M at Commerce (1987). In his over thirty years of teaching, he has earned numerous honors including the College of Fine Arts Teaching Excellence Award, the SFASU Faculty Achievement in Teaching Award (2012), and the Meritorious Achievement Award from the Texas Bandmasters Association (2012). He is a member of the American Bandmasters Association, Phi Beta Mu International Bandmasters Fraternity, and the College Band Directors National Association. Professor Allen is regularly a clinician or guest conductor for the Midwest International Band and Orchestra Convention and the Texas Music Educators Association Convention. He has also served as an adjudicator, clinician, and conductor for All-Region and All-State Bands throughout the United States.
Before accepting his current position at SFASU, Professor Allen taught middle school band in Texas for eleven years. He initially applied for the Director of Bands position at SFASU because of the school’s reputation as a “place with a strong foundation in music education.” The SFASU Wind Ensemble, under the leadership of Professor Allen, has performed at annual conventions for the Texas Music Educators Association, the College Band Directors National Association, the National Association of Composers (USA, Texas Chapter), and the South Central Regional Music Conference in Louisiana.
With instrumentalists on either side of his family, music was “ever-present” in Professor Allen’s childhood; it was only natural that he would consider it as a career. Becoming a woodwind specialist was, however, half curiosity and half necessity. Although he originally studied the cornet in beginning band classes, the program was in need of an oboist. Professor Allen was excited to try an additional instrument and quickly became proficient on multiple members of the woodwind family. Throughout his career, Professor Allen has had the opportunity to play clarinet with the Fort Worth Civic Orchestra and the Irving Symphony Woodwind Quintet, bass clarinet for the Irving Symphony, and piccolo for the Abilene Philharmonic. He has performed on various woodwind instruments for more than forty musicals and operas, at Opryland (USA), for the Ice Capades, and with the Ringling Brothers & Barnum and Bailey’s Circus.
Professor Allen has also had several opportunities to conduct ensembles in Korea, Taiwan, and Australia. Working with musical ensembles abroad confirmed for Professor Allen that music is indeed an international language; an ensemble in Korea might not understand English idioms, but gestures, facial expressions, and (European) musical terms are universal. Professor Allen appreciates the “emotional quality” of music that remains constant across the continents and makes it possible to connect with other cultures.
Professor Allen regularly composes works for band, orchestra, and woodwind ensembles. His music has been performed at countless international conventions and festivals. Notable pieces include When the Stars Began to Fall, They Led My Lord Away, and Exhilaration. To new or struggling composers, Professor Allen prescribes writing every single day. He stated that composers who sit around waiting for inspiration will find themselves ill-equipped for the task due to a lack of technical preparation; it is necessary to regularly practice the craft in order to fine tune one’s personal preferences and musical development.
To young music educators, Professor Allen advises selecting a mentor. He conceded that, although various university programs come close, it is not possible to exactly replicate classroom conditions in a college lecture. He believes that “the first few years of teaching are like an apprenticeship” that should be guided by someone who has both failed and succeeded in the field. In the event of a failed lesson plan or poor performance, Professor Allen advises adopting the mindset that one has found an additional way not to approach that particular aspect of the job.
About the future, Professor Allen stated that he hopes to continue improving as both an educator and a musician; “music gives you the perfect opportunity to experience growth in both of those areas.” He makes a regular effort to be constantly composing or fine tuning a work. Professor Allen absolutely loves doing region band clinics or workshopping public school programs around the country; “Sometimes I feel like I learn more from them than they learn from me.”
Book and Recording Suggestions from Professor Allen:
“Sound in Motion: A Performer’s Guide to Greater Musical Expression” David McGill
*Professor Allen suggests listening to as many quality recordings from professional orchestras (ex: Chicago Symphony, Houston Symphony, etc.) as possible.