Roosevelt High School band director Frank Abel wipes tears from...

Roosevelt High School band director Frank Abel wipes tears from his eyes at the Roosevelt Public Library annual women's tea, where he was honored on March 24. Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

The Roosevelt Public Library used its annual women’s celebration event to honor an accomplished musician who is reviving a high school band program.

Frank Abel, 72, a former band leader at Uniondale High School, came out of retirement in 2016 to lead Roosevelt High School’s band. For the first time in 22 years, Roosevelt’s band played in the Newsday Marching Band Festival last October. This May, the band is set to play at Riverside Church in Manhattan.

When Abel first took the Roosevelt job, the program had 35 students. By this September, Abel said it will reach 110.

“There’s a real sense of pride with the program now,” said Nichelle Rivers, the grants and funded programs director at the Roosevelt Union Free School District. “The students feel like they’re part of something special. Mr. Abel instills that in them.”

Abel has spent 29 years as a band director, professional musician and music educator. He is also a long-standing trustee on the library’s governing board. And for those accomplishments, Roosevelt’s African-American community packed the library’s auditorium on Saturday to hear Abel’s accolades.

Roosevelt librarian Carol Gilliam said Abel has donated his time and music equipment to the library. His push for government funding helped pay for renovations in the building.

“He is responsible for the beautiful room we’re sitting in today,” Gilliam told the crowd of about 100.

Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

During the library’s women’s tea, Rivers unveiled a purple and gold painted portrait of Abel. The image shows a younger Frank Abel with chiseled biceps playing a keyboard with a microphone at his lips. Abel stared at the painting, wiped away a tear, then smiled.

“This type of honor makes me cry, so just bear with me — I’m a mushy guy inside,” he said.

Rivers, who painted the piece, said it was a labor of love that took months to complete.

Abel delivered the event’s keynote address, and in it, he challenged the audience to be more active in Roosevelt by becoming a mentor, volunteer or being someone who gives advice to someone in need.

Roosevelt High School band director Frank Abel.

Roosevelt High School band director Frank Abel. Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

He also told the crowd that there’s a special place in his heart for Roosevelt, New York.

“I have worked all over the country, and as some of you may know, I have worked all over the world,” he said. “And each and every time, the road leads me back home — back to Roosevelt.”

Latest videos