To Anita Smith-Frankel, teaching music classes for over 40 years may seem “a bit unreal”, but the enthusiasm of the owner/founder of Musical Offerings remains strong.
Smith-Frankel’s unwavering dedication to music education was recently recognized by the Kansas Music Teachers Association. KMTA named her Teacher of the Year at its annual conference in Newton in September.
While attending Wichita State University and pursuing a degree in music education, Derby native Smith-Frankel began teaching private lessons.
“I thought I was going to teach in public schools, and then I found out that wasn’t my favorite,” Smith-Frankel said. “I don’t enjoy it like private teaching.”
In addition to working at a store in Newton, Smith-Frankel has spent most of her 40 years teaching Musical Offerings (which she runs with husband Richard Frankel).
First, Smith-Frankel taught piano lessons—and later earned a Masters in Music Performance in Piano Pedagogy from Washington State University. Having played other instruments growing up, Derby High School graduates also teach violin and viola lessons.
With a strong children’s music curriculum, Smith-Frankel has no worries about teaching younger children. Usually, she starts her classes with students over the age of 7 and will continue teaching as long as she has “everything going”. Her current two dozen students range from seven to adults with varying levels of experience, but she notes that she hopes each student will develop her same passion for music.
“When they come to me, I want them to feel that no matter their age or level, they can be a part of the music,” Smith-Frankel said.
In private lessons, Smith-Frankel admits she’s found her niche, loves her job and helps students succeed — whether that’s helping casual musicians learn their favorite songs or helping high school students prepare for competition.
Currently, Smith-Frankel says she has three students preparing for the concerto competition. Given the length of the repertoire and the memory requirements, she noted that preparations for such competitions typically begin six months in advance.
Between those competitions and some senior recitals given by recent grads, with all the work in mind, Smith-Frankel said it was worth seeing the fruits of their labor come to fruition.
Now, the NES has realized the fruits of Smith-Frankel’s labor through the Distinguished Teacher Award. She jokes that if you stick around long enough, you can get such an award. While she was surprised by the award, she noted that she has been inspired by the many outstanding teachers she has benefited from over the years and is willing to pay for it.
“First, I nearly fell off my chair when they told me at a meeting last spring that they were going to nominate me. It’s a huge honor because so many teachers I’ve seen over the years have received it, They were even my professors,” Smith-Frankel said. “Whenever they call and say, ‘Anita, can you accept this state-level position or the president of this, that and another,’ I think how can I say no?”
Smith-Frankel said the award was “a shot in the arm” that gave her the motivation to be creative in teaching. While she knows not all students will go on to become professional musicians, she says music can help them no matter their aspirations, and she hopes to impress her students.
“I just want them to always love music and find a way to make their own because I think it’s a healing and stress reliever,” Smith-Frankel said. “I feel like it’s a lifelong skill that they can use no matter how old they are or where they end up going.”