Thursday, January 05, 2006

Remembering a Great Man of Music

My fraternity lost one of its finest members earlier this week, and the music world at large lost an unsung hero. Unlike some of our brothers, this man's name was not so well-known outside the fraternity, so I wanted to mention his passing in the hopes that a few more people might be aware of him:

David T. Plank, Beta Phi (Baldwin-Wallace) '40, known by generations of
Sinfonians around the country, passed away on Sunday, January 1, 2006.
He was 85. His daughter, Stephanie Plank Livengood, reported that
Brother Plank passed away at 3:00 p.m. "as he listened to his favorite
music on the Moody Bible Broadcasting Network out of Chicago."

Plank was a regular at Fraternity events such as National Conventions
and Conclaves, and was known by many Sinfonians for his classic,
music-related puns, which he would "pun" off on unsuspecting souls in
rapid-fire succession. In February 2000, he led several hundred Brothers
in song during the largest annual gathering of Sinfonians, the Texas
Music Educators Association (TMEA) Sinfonia Sing, in San Antonio.

Plank was the composer of many Sinfonia songs, three of which are
featured in the current edition of Sinfonia Songs:
Sinfonia (Sing, Brothers, Sing) (p.26)
Sing of Sinfonia (p.30)
Sinfonia Grace (p.85)

National President Richard Crosby commented, "This is truly a sad day
for all Sinfonians. No Sinfonian lived and breathed music every day of
his life more than David Plank. He will be sorely missed - but even
though he has left us physically, his spirit will be with us always
through his fraternal songs. I will always remember his spirit when I
sing 'Sing of Sinfonia.'"

Executive Director Ryan Ripperton added, "David has always been the most
unconditionally enthusiastic Sinfonian I've ever met. Never one to be
involved in politics or policy, David showed up under the Sinfonia
banner over and over again, there simply to share his love of Phi Mu
Alpha Sinfonia."

Read the rest of the story here; it includes pictures as well as his obituary notice from the Wooster (Ohio) Daily Record.
I had the privilege of getting to know David Plank at several national fraternity events, and I got to spend quite a bit of time with him when we had the national convention here in Dallas in 2000. (Among other things, I had the distinct pleasure of introducing him to my own chapter's icon, Robert J. Rogers; among other things, both were initiated in 1940, both played piano, both had a wicked sense of humor, and both had contributed tunes to the fraternity songbook.) He needed a ride to the airport, and another brother and I happily obliged. It was back in the days before 9/11, so we were allowed to go to the gate area with him, eat lunch, and hang out with him until he got on the plane. For my part as the driver, he gave me a custom-made black tie with the letters "FMA" on it. I always get a lot of comments about it whenever I wear it to fraternity events, and I'll wear it with even more pride now.

Godspeed, Brother Plank. You will be missed, and your legacy will live on through your music, as well as the memories of all the brothers whose lives you touched.

(See a PDF of my favorite Plank song, Sing of Sinfonia.)

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