A Spotlight on Dr. Frank Felice

Marina McLerran

Editor, McLerran Journal

Assistant Band Director, Center ISD, TX


Although I have not yet met him in person, Dr. Felice strikes me as an incredibly interesting person. He is witty, well-traveled, and obviously cares very deeply for his students and the quality of his craft.


Dr. Frank Felice is currently an associate professor of composition, theory, and electronic music for the School of Music (Jordan College of Arts) at Butler University in Indianapolis, Indiana. He is an internationally recognized educator, composer, and musician. Dr. Felice is a member of the Society for Electro-Acoustic Music in the U.S., the American Composers Forum, the American Music Center, The Society of Composers, Inc., and the Christian Fellowship of Art Music Composers. He has served as a resident composer with the Wyoming Arts Council, the Banff Centre for the Arts, and several universities and high schools across the nation.

Professor Felice, originally from Hamilton, Montana, began studying piano at about age five. Because of the support of his parents and multiple elementary music teachers, he was also able to study singing, guitar, and double bass throughout adolescence. Rock and funk were, and continue to be, the preferred genre of Professor Felice, who has toured most of the western United States and several eastern countries with groups like Graffiti (1986-87). Dr. Felice holds degrees in Music Composition, Music Theory, and Double Bass from Concordia College in Minnesota (1984), the University of Colorado (1986), and Butler University (1992), completing his Ph.D in music from the University of Minnesota in 1998. His teachers have included Michel Schelle, Daniel Breedon, Luiz Gonzalez, James Day, Dominick Argento, Alex Lubet, Lloyd Ultan, and Judith Zang Zaimont. 

In between earning his master’s degree and doctorate, Dr. Felice held positions at both Sam Houston State University and Lamar University in Texas. He accepted his current position at Butler University as his doctoral candidacy drew to a close and has just celebrated his twentieth year there. About his decision to work at the university, Felice stated that it was “exactly what [he] had been looking for in a liberal art” school. When it comes to his teaching philosophy, Dr. Felice believes in project-based education in order to prepare students for real-world situations. For example, a recent assignment for his undergraduate composition students involved planning, in great detail, a hypothetical cross-country performance series. “Composition (these days),” Dr. Felice shared, “is (becoming) less about the music in the concert hall and more about composers putting their own product together and taking it on tour.” Regardless whether his students desire to write for young bands or large orchestras, Professor Felice encourages getting to know “the rockstars of that specific area” and studying what exactly makes their work successful.

Dr. Felice describes himself as an “eclectic composer” and “inveterate punster” who writes for almost every genre with a “postmodern mischievousness.” He has completed ten works for orchestra, ten chamber pieces, sixteen choral works, nine works for wind ensemble, and countless others. A few pieces that stand out from the rest include Sleight of Band (2000), Preserve Me, O God (2016, written for Mitzi Westra, his wife), Waiting for Gounod (2004), and Willow Maiden (2002), a ballet commissioned by the Butler University Ballet and based on a Tolkien-inspired work by Ellen Denham. His works are incredibly diverse with unique instrumentation and a healthy dose of highbrow humor. Dr. Felice’s music has been performed in the U.S., U.K., Brazil, Argentina, Japan, Greece, Italy, Russia, China, Austria, the Phillipines, the Czech Republic, and Hungary. It is a personal goal of Dr. Felice to have his works performed “in every state of the U.S. and on every continent.” Currently the only two continents he lacks are Africa and Antarctica (although apparently, there are plans for the latter already in the works).

Professor Felice has been commissioned by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Omaha Symphony, the Indiana Arts Commission, The Indiana Repertory Theater, Dance Kaledioscope, the Music Teachers National Association, and several others. He gets his inspiration “from everywhere and everything” and most frequently “measures [himself] against” the works of Dominick Argento (for vocal works) or Stravinsky (for instrumental works). To aspiring composers, Dr. Felice advises “composing all the time and listening to everything.” He emphasized the importance of exploring the best of every genre in order to “capture the most interesting techniques” and apply them to one’s own works. In the future, he hopes to compose the approximately eighty unwritten works on his composition bucket-list; these include a sonata for various instruments as well as an opera.


Follow Dr. Felice at https://www.frank-felice.com


Book and Music Suggestions from Dr. Felice:

“Behind Bars: The Definitive Guide to Music Notation” Elaine Gould 

Spock’s Beard 




Interview on May 6, 2018.


Felice, Frank. Frank Felice, Composer: About. Web. 10 May, 2018.



Denham, Ellen. (2003). The Willow Maiden - A Longtime Tolkien Enthusiast's Fantasy Ballet

          Production. The One Ring. Web. 12 May, 2018.