by Leah Jackson

Two accomplished Northwestern State University alumni will be featured at an upcoming Natchitoches-Northwestern Symphony Orchestra concert set to begin at 4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 14 in Magale Recital Hall.  Kevin Tison will be featured on piano and Clarence Frank Jr. will conduct Tchaikovsky’s “Piano Concerto No. 1.”  The program will also include Haydn’s Symphony No. 92 “Oxford.”

Tickets are $15 for the public and free for Northwestern State, BPCC@NSU and Louisiana School for Math, Science, and the Arts students. Dr. Douglas Bakenhus is conductor of the Natchitoches-Northwestern Symphony.

Frank was born and raised in Baytown, Texas, and earlier this year made history when he was appointed conductor of the Baytown Symphony. He is the first African American conductor to be appointed in the greater Houston area and in the Baytown Symphony’s 53-year history.

Frank and Tison have been friends since their undergraduate days when they connected through the School of Creative and Performing Arts and the Baptist Student Union, now the Baptist Collegiate Ministry.  They have both maintained ties to NSU and reunited to perform the Tchaikovsky concerto with the Baytown Symphony Orchestra on Oct. 17, a performance that both said was a resounding success.

“I had called Clarence earlier this year to say congratulations on being appointed conductor and said, ‘You should program the Tchaikovsky concerto and bring me out to perform it,’” Tison explained. “It was mostly a joke, but he called me up later and said, ‘How about October 17?’ It was a dream for me and such a cool opportunity.  We rolled forward with it.”

“I mentioned to my Theta Chi fraternity brother Van Erickson [director of Recruiting] that we would be doing a concert in Baytown with two NSU alums,” Frank added.  “I said we should try and organize a Houston area alumni gathering for this event.  He then mentioned it to Dr. Bakenhus.  From there, Dr. Bakenhus said that we should come back to NSU and do the program there.  So, we got the ball rolling and got everything set up. My expectation is that it will be a rousing success with the symphony orchestra and will bring back lots of alumni and friends to visit the old stomping grounds.”

“We’ll be right at home on the Magale Hall stage again,” Tison said. “It will be surreal being back and coming full circle.”

Frank started his musical journey in the 6th grade at Cedar Bayou Junior School playing cello in the orchestra.  He continued playing all through high school, graduating from Sterling High School and then receiving his Bachelor of Music Education from NSU in 2000.  While at NSU, he studied cello with Richard Rose and conducted with Dr. George Adams.  After graduating with honors, he began teaching orchestra in the Goose Creek public schools. He taught for 16 years and, following a desire to transition to higher education, earned a Master of Music Degree in Conducting from Sam Houston State University studying with Dr. Jacob Sustaita and Dr. Daniel Saenz.

Frank continues to teach through private cello studies and as the director of Performing Arts for Baytown Christian Academy serving as the orchestra and choir director for the school.  In his young conducting career, he had the privilege of leading the Woodlands Symphony Orchestra, Sam Houston State Symphony Orchestra, the Natchitoches-Northwestern Symphony Orchestra and the Shreveport Symphony Orchestra.

A central Louisiana native, Tison began his musical education with piano study at age 13. Over the past 30 years, his professional work in music has spanned various roles as a conductor, educator, pianist, arranger and vocalist.  He is in his 20th year teaching high school choral music, the past 17 at Fountain Valley High School in Orange County, California.

Tison earned a Bachelor of Music at NSU in 1993 and a Master of Music from Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, both in piano performance.   Additional concentrations of study were pursued in the areas of voice, composition, orchestration and conducting.

At the conductor’s podium, his work has been extensive and varied from orchestras and choirs to directing musical and opera theater.   He has been featured as a performer on organ, harpsichord, French horn, percussion and voice, in addition to piano.   Before teaching, Tison served as music director of various churches throughout Louisiana, Texas and California.   In addition to his teaching and performing duties, he is passionate about educational travel and serves as part of the Perform International team as an artistic advisor and production assistant, helping develop choral music festivals and other international performance opportunities.

Memberships to the Natchitoches-Northwestern Symphony Society start at $50 with higher sponsorship levels providing additional benefits. For more information on memberships, contact Symphony Society President Loren Ford at  A full schedule of CAPA events is available at

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