The Latina Book Club is pleased to welcome Frank Brewster III, a Texas music teacher turn poet and author. Once an educator, always an educator. Frank has been able to "bridge words, poetry, music and education, all into a single work of art," and his books are being used in numerous school districts. What follows is a lengthy chat with Frank, but you can't help but be impressed by his devotion to education, and his hard work in getting his books into children's hands. All we can say is, Bravo, Frank. Bravo!
It is Life that inspires me to write. You see, I am in love with life!!! I am fascinated with all aspects of living for it is a constant challenge of beauty, love, struggle, heartbreak, food, and so much more! --Frank Brewster III
Q: Congratulations on winning $10,000 from the Mission Economic Development Corporation Ruby Red Venture Program. We understand that the money is going to mass-produce your books for several school districts in South Texas. Can you tell us more about this prize? Is it an annual award for anyone or educators? How did you enter?
FRANK: I came into contact with Charo Mann, Executive Director of the Women’s Business Center in Edinburg, Texas. And it was at this point that Jose Enriquez, Business Research Assistant, mentored and helped me write my first Brewster’s Guacamaya Enterprises Business Plan along with Mrs. Mann. Shortly after, Mission’s EDC Ruby Red Venture had a $50,000.00 grant entrepreneur competition. As my company is based in Mission, Texas, I applied and was referred to Janie Caballero, Senior Business Advisor of the Small Business Development Center. This is a Component of the Business Development & Innovation Group at The University of Texas-Pan American, which is also located in Edinburg, Texas.
It was at this point I discovered that with Ms. Caballero’s help I just might have an opportunity to receive part of the grant money to help my company expand through acquiring more powerful software, printing equipment, computers, and supplies to make samples of my work and literature. To my surprise, after several months and workshops that I needed to attend, I was interviewed by a panel of business executives and was awarded $10,000.00 of the total grant monies. With the help of the Mission EDC’s grant money, I was able to create more books that I am now showcasing across the country! This was a true blessing from the City of Mission, Texas and the Honorable Mayor Beto Salinas!
Q: I read a quote by you that said: “Education is the best weapon against poverty and violence.” How can your books help kids? Why is it so important for you to share your books with the schools? How supportive are you fellow teachers and schools districts?
FRANK: I learned long ago that if I wanted to succeed in life, I had to acquire the necessary knowledge I needed to propel myself to have the career I would choose. Thus, coming from the “Barrio” in my early childhood, I decided to make a positive difference for myself by avoiding the many negative pitfalls we all too often hear about. Little did I know as a child that learning two languages simultaneously would be of great benefit. And today, children are reading and studying my literature using my Spanish Poetry in the acquisition of the English Language! My books have common sense themes that young children can use in everyday life which include critical thinking. And what sets my books apart from others is that they are based on poetry. In Texas, we have TEKS and STAAR objectives and curriculum, while most of the country is using common core objectives and curriculum. My literature has been reviewed with both expectations and learning standards.
I have found a unique way of teaching children bilingual and dual language poetry that makes learning fun, interactive, imaginative, and quickly addresses listening, speaking, reading, and writing! I like to say to all that, "I have not invented the wheel; I am just making it turn much faster!”
It is important to have school districts share my literature with their children as they teach life’s lessons through poetry. They require the students to think out-side-the-box and give responses upon their own interpretations of not only what the poem means to them, but how it connects with everyday situations. It is imperative that children think critically about their surroundings and not just the most basic of questions. I have found a need for my material in many school districts throughout the country.
Q: We understand that your books will be published in English and Spanish. Did you decide to offer both languages purposely? Are these school districts heavy on Latino students?
FRANK: I love this question as it quickly addresses “Why” I decided to publish my books in both languages and then some! Although most school districts function in the same basic manner, they all have their own distinct character even amongst heavily Hispanic populated districts. Therefore, I decided to have two books in one, while at the same time dividing the same books into all Spanish and all English books. After attending and presenting at the National Association of Bilingual Education Conferences in Denver, Colorado and New Orleans, Louisiana, I discovered that I had something special to offer children and parents alike. In addition, as I traveled showcasing my material, administrators and teachers kept telling me they would rather have my books in big books, regular size books, and small books. Therefore, I created what they wanted and also combined different sizes for their districts.
This is the appeal my literature has as it continues to be acquired for specialties within a districts. Because of the books uniqueness, the Bilingual, Dual Language, Migrant, Head Start, English Language Arts, and Library Departments are buying them. I have also made retail books, which are being sold at Barnes & Noble, by only having the illustrated portion of the books printed. I would finish this section by writing that the schools buying my books are not necessarily Latino/Hispanic populated due to the English Language Arts Department also acquiring them!
Q: Tell us about you and your family. Tell us about being a music teacher. Do you still teach? What was your greatest moment as a teacher?
FRANK: My wife and I met in college. I was an aspiring musician (Saxophonist) and she was pursuing her passion of music while wanting to be a teacher. I briefly played with the Nelson Ned Orchestra and then Noe Pro Orchestra as I continued to study and later graduated from the University of Texas Pan American. We married and had our first daughter, Alyssa Nicole and a year and a half later Alison Gabrielle. I began teaching at Lenoir Elementary, an all six grade school in Donna, Texas, as its music teacher. The following year, Mr. Hugo Gonzalez recruited me to be his assistant at Sharyland High School where I had graduated from high school in 1978. After four years I got a job at Hidalgo ISD as its Head Band Director for following seven years.
The experiences I gained continued to define me, as this is where I was asked by my third mentor to take a writing program in the summer. Mr. Daniel P. King to me is an educator of educators as he pushed me to broaden my horizon. Because of his leadership, I would, into the future, become an author of poetry! This brings me to my last sixteen years as a band director for Kenneth White Jr. High at Mission CISD where I finished my career after twenty-eight years. It was during this time that my wife and I had two more children, Anthony Frank Brewster and Abigail Renée Brewster.
I have been blessed that my one constant throughout my career has been the children I was able to reach while making a positive impact on their lives. It did not just happen through music, but rather by learning about all that is good and positive. Music gave me a platform to express emotion, structure, discipline, passion, unity, and one for all and all for one. I try my best to be a great mentor and role model year after year to hundreds. Conversely, it is not about that one moment, but rather everything I learned from thousands of children and their parents.
Q: Why and when did you want to be a writer? What/ who inspires your stories?
FRANK: I stumbled upon becoming a writer from taking the New Jersey Writing Institute Program. It was discovered for me that I was a poet when I was called to read some of my writings. After the instructor wrote several slants on my paper, she said, “Now read your writing!” Afterward, I was asked if I had anything to do with fine arts to which I said, “Yes, I am the Head Band Director of Hidalgo ISD.” “Now I understand,” she said, “Everything you have been writing has rhythm and rhyme!”
You see, I fell in love with writing when I began to express my most inner thoughts through a pencil and paper. My early writings were all written in English, as were my poems. However, it would be years later that I would begin to write in Spanish and so were born my romantic compositions. To me, Spanish is a much more romantic language and the words come much more easily for me to write. I suppose this has to do with my growing up with Spanish at home and performing with a Tejano Groups.
To answer your question, it is Life that inspires me to write. You see, I am in love with life!!! I am fascinated with all aspects of living for it is a constant challenge of beauty, love, struggle, heartbreak, food, and so much more! Notice I said food! Hahaha!
Q: You’ve been a Junior High School music teacher for over 16 years and a band director for 28 years total. Has music always been one of your passions? Is that why your books come with soundtracks? Are the soundtracks songs or is someone reading the book?
FRANK: Yes, the last of my 16 of 28 years of service to education were at Kenneth White Jr. High School. Prior to this I began teaching a music class at Lenoir Elementary In Donna ISD. This was followed being an assistant band director at Sharyland ISD for four years and then head- band director at Hidalgo ISD for 7 years.
I began playing saxophone when I was in the 8th grade at Sharyland ISD because of Mr. Roel Smith, who let me, use a school instrument. As life would have it, I became an accomplished saxophonist winning many awards throughout my high school years. This included gold medals at local, regional, and state level along with many first place awards sitting at the front of all performances. Later in college, I was privy to play and tour with the late Nelson Ned Orchestra! What an experience that was to perform with a world-class orchestra! Yes, music (saxophone) definitely has been one of my passions with which I have been able to express my heart and soul throughout most of my life.
This is why my books come with soundtracks! I have been able to bridge words, poetry, music, and education, all into single work of art! I do have to write that I am going to win 7 Latin Grammy’s as I am currently having a blast putting together a CD with my saxophone playing jazz as a background to my voice. Hahaha!!!
Because I know the sentiments, emotions, and distinctive levels of passion with which I hear in my mind, my poetry, I decided to recite and record all of all my works! It is important to understand that as readers, we are not privileged to hear what the author is hearing in his mind when he/she writes their compositions. I, however, want to personally let my audience know what is in my mind, heart, and soul when you listen to my voice. I am extremely proud of myself, as I have been able to connect all the pieces of my work together. However, I could not have achieved this success without the many that have contributed to Brewster’s Guacamaya Enterprises success!
I would very much like to credit my wife, Angela, for helping in many aspects of BGE including music composer, music producer, and author of her own sing-a-long books! Our two children Abigail and Anthony have also been with us through many presentations, recordings, exhibitions, and sleepless nights, while we worked to perfect our materials and final products! Thank you, Dad!
Q: Aside from your children’s books you also wrote DECLARATIONS OF A LIFE, a collection of poems. What are the poems about? Is there also a soundtrack for this book?
Declaraciones de una Vida / Declarations of a Life is a collection of Latin and American contemporary works of poetic art. It transcends time in its uniqueness with its powerful yet passionate sentiments that are sure to allow ones emotions to expand.
Throughout our lives’ we encounter many different phases of life that are captured in our memories and are brought forth through our heart-felt emotions and passions. And, in moments of flashbacks, we pour our sentiments of sorrow, delight, grief, anguish, joy, despair, regret, satisfaction, and beauty(to name a few) onto a piece of paper using lead or ink. This is just some of what you can expect from my book! But do not be fooled, there is usually a positive ending to my poems.
I must let you know that the poetic compositions I visualize have to be written quickly or otherwise I will forget the words. However, most of my poems can be interpreted from a man or woman’s point of view. Yet, the most important aspect of my work has to be that it is the reader that will make up his or her mind as to how the composition has affected their life! I have had so many different individuals tell me that my poems reminded them of events in their life totally different from what was my true intent in the composition was. This to me is the beauty of my poetry! It is not about my life and me; it is about the reflection of the readers’ own lives and how the poem(s) has affected them!
I decided to record my compositions to let the reader know how I heard the poems in my mind. And, I must write that it certainly makes a tremendous difference from reading the poems, listening to me recite my poems, and finally, listening to me with an accompanying Spanish classical guitarist! My sincerest thanks to Mr. Hector Javier Rodriguez for his impeccable performances on his classic guitar!
Because there is only so much compact disk storage available, I decided to divide the book into four volumes. This collection can be obtained as single CD’s, or CD’s with accompanying lyrics/booklet, or an audio book recited over two CD’s listening only to my voice!
Since there is a shortage of authentic poetic books to study from, I have also created two volumes of age appropriate compositions. These books include objectives, curriculum, side-by-side poetry along with questions in Spanish and English, Spanish/English vocabulary, Teacher lesson planning, Teacher instructions on how to teach my literature, and a CD with my narration of my poetry!
Please allow me to let you decide what you think about a few of my excerpts:
Q: We understand some of your former students helped you with the drawings and design of your books. Do you see any of them following in your footsteps as a teacher or as a writer? If so, you must be so proud.
FRANK: I appreciate this question very much as Ms. Amanda Alejos who illustrated Pequeños Campeones / Little Champions received her education in Art from the University of Texas Pan American in Edinburg, Texas. Her illustrations have made many children smile as they read along the book!
Mr. Manuel Raul Delgado is now in San Antonio, Texas, pursuing his video production work, and is responsible for my videos and pictures that showcase my use poetry!
Mrs. Angela I. Brewster authored Arielle’s Rainbow and Hide and Seek! These two books are the first of six sing-a-long books to which she also composed her music! Angela is amazingly talented as her melodies flow from page to page and children quickly learn to read as they sing her songs many times over.
Others Frank wants to thank include:
Mr. Greg Ivan Garcia
Mrs. Ana Laura Perez
Mr. Samuel Zamarrón
Ms. Abigail Renée Brewster
Mr. Anthony Frank Brewster
All of the above mentioned illustrators are or will be graduates of the Mission Consolidated Independent School District!
To all of your teachers and schools throughout your K-12 grade, thanks for your instruction of these fine and outstanding individuals who have contributed to the betterment of education through your illustrations and words! I would also like to mention the gentleman whose finishing touches make all of the books what they are…Mr. Francisco Javier Rendon!
Q: What more should we know about Frank Brewster III?
FRANK: Frank Brewster III is a gentleman leaving a legacy of poetic literature for children, parents, and adults alike to read, sing, recite, study, and interpret as they wish!
It is my goal to become a worldwide publisher of the finest literature from those who would otherwise not be heard or read! The English Language has been, is, and should not ever be compromised in our United States of America! However, I do not ever wish upon another generation of learners to be spanked in a hand with a ruler or sent to a principal office because they spoke a few words other than English at school! This was my upbringing as a young child!
It is with the upmost respect, that I have for education and our system of teaching, that I express my views. I am of the opinion that our children need to learn different languages in order to compete internationally and become citizens of the world. I was privileged to have learned Spanish at home while learning English at school! Thus, a generation of us also learned two languages simultaneously. And to this end, we are a stronger people, a stronger country, and definitely a stronger voice in the world!
Finally, I applaud all bilingual /dual language teachers and administrators for making a positive difference in the lives of our school children and Newcomers friends! What joy they must bring to children when they begin to have a conversation in English! I also thank the many teachers across our USA who take time to teach our English Language to children that will someday grow up to be our next generation of leaders!
Q: How can your fans reach out to you?
FRANK: Please visit me at Brewster’s Guacamaya Enterprises website: www.fbgenterprises.com or write to me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
In addition, when visiting the website, don’t forget to scroll through the excerpts books and music!