Fred Pankratz was born November 22, 1947, to Walter and Wanza Pankratz in El Paso. He attended Burnett Elementary where he played cornet in the fifth and sixth-grade bands under the direction of Gerald Risinger. He then joined the Bassett Junior High band under the direction of William C. Robinson. Mr. Robinson suggested Fred change to the French horn in the seventh grade; Fred began taking private lessons at that time, and soon began performing in the El Paso Horn Choir, occasionally with Phil Farkas.
Fred had many musical opportunities at Austin High School in El Paso with Bobby Booth as band director and George Weber as orchestra director. In 1963 Fred played with the Austin High Honor Full Orchestra in Houston with John Coulehan, who was later the clarinet soloist with the US Navy Band in Washington D.C. In 1964 Fred was first chair horn in the All-State Youth Orchestra, which performed in Houston. As a sophomore, he also played in the El Paso Symphony, where he performed for five years and played in the summer concert park series for both band and orchestra. Fred made All-State Symphony Orchestra in 1966 and performed in Dallas. During his high school years, he made All-City Band four years, All-City Orchestra four years (top four chairs of the All-City Band), solo & ensemble contest four years, and played at churches and a summer with the Salvation Army band (all horn parts in Eb.)
After high school, Fred and best friend Pat Coulehan were recruited by Harold Hillyer to come to The University of Texas at El Paso. There he performed with John Coulehan, Rick Lambrecht, Jessie Lotspeich, Jimmie Olivas, Al Mendez, and many other great musicians including a two-year All-State trumpet player from Jal, New Mexico, Sheila Roberts. Fred continued to play with the symphony, summer park band and orchestra, operas, ballets, and various concerts each year and was also horn section leader after Rick’s Lambrecht’s graduation. The UTEP band performed under several guest conductors including Col. Arnold Gabriel, Vaclav Nehylbel, and Francis McBeth. Both Fred and Sheila were asked to work on Hillyer’s staff and were elected presidents of Kappa Kappa Psi and Tau Beta Sigma respectively. The rides to basketball pep band, charting sessions, fraternity/sorority activities and concerts became more frequent, and the romance between the two soon blossomed. Both Fred and Sheila graduated with Bachelor of Music Education degrees in May of 1971.
The couple’s wedding plans were made in cooperation with the Selective Service. With a draft notice looming, Fred was accepted to serve in the Army band in San Antonio. The couple was married by the Justice of the Peace so Sheila could set up the household in San Antonio while Fred was in basic training. Thankfully, Fred failed his physical due to chronic high blood pressure. So, without a job or even any applications sent out, Fred and Sheila moved back to Sheila’s hometown, Jal, a more central location for interviews. While living in Jal, the planned church wedding was held on Fred’s parent's twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. Fred worked as a bartender at the local country club and in construction with El Paso Natural Gas. Then a call came from the Superintendent of Schools in Miami, Texas, who wanted to start a band from scratch. The town of Miami, in the north part of the panhandle, was a drastic change from the desert landscapes of El Paso and Jal. Upon arrival in Miami, the couple moved into the newlywed apartment, the only housing available in town.
At Miami, Fred taught English, reading, photography, three band classes, and sponsored the annual staff. Miami bands started going to UIL contest after only four years with Fred as director. They earned a two in marching and ones in both concert and sight reading. A UIL Sweepstakes award followed in 1975-76, the first Class B Sweepstakes in Region I in thirteen years. Fred had help from Region I directors and new friends, Gerald Smith, Jeff Doughten, and the Saturday May & Duncan dinner group. Sheila was working at a garment foundations factory in Pampa at the time, twenty-three miles away, and began teaching piano lessons in Canadian twenty-three miles the other direction from Miami. After her lesson schedule swelled to forty -five Canadian students, she quit the factory.
When the Canadian band director position opened, Fred was hired by Superintendent Jim Pollard in 1976, no doubt with influence from some of Sheila’s piano students’ parents. Sheila worked with Fred two days before she was hired as a “Band Aide.” They soon realized that the Canadian band required some careful fundamental teaching in order to begin improving. After assisting for two years, Sheila moved to the elementary music position to provide more musically literate students for the band program. In coordination with the P. E. teachers, Sheila created physical routines that instilled the basic beat. Fred was then able to find other assistant directors.
Early in Fred’s career in Canadian, a very important friendship and mentoring relationship started with Dr. Charles Trayler. Fred and Charlie began traveling together to adjudicate contests both in Oklahoma and Texas. They had many conversations, including a discussion (very one-sided) about the tuning tendency of the second tetrachord. They shared sound band ideas and many stories.
Fred and Sheila elected to remain in Class 2A Canadian their entire teaching careers. Over the years, Fred was asked many times, “So, what are you still doing in Canadian?” And he always replied, “Very well, thank you.”
In 1984 their daughter Christine was born. She had a nine-year foundation in piano, was an All-State musician and member of the NBA National Honors Band in San Antonio. She played solos and ensembles and was a top student. She has both a bachelor’s and master’s degree from SWOSU in Weatherford, OK, and teaches Senior English at Bishop McGuinness Catholic High School in Oklahoma City.
Fred’s bands, with help from clinicians Dr. Charles Trayler, Dr. Gary Garner, Tim Kelley, Cody Myers, Barry Hurt, Roger Edwards, Robbie Edwards, Dr. James South, and others developed into consistent UIL Sweepstakes winners with twenty-two in a row from 1984 until his retirement in 2005, twenty-five in total. Shared credit for these awards goes to the students and assistant directors, David Hawkins, David Sims, Kyle Maxwell, Jennifer Willison, and Will Brewer. Fred was elected into the membership of PHI Beta Mu International Bandmasters Fraternity in 1982, sponsored by Dr. Charles Trayler and Harris Brinson. In 1991, he was one of the sixteen founding members who formed the Association of Texas Small School Bands and was the first vice-president and second president of that All-State sponsoring group. Mr. P. and staff encouraged the Canadian band students to participate in UIL solo & ensemble contest and All-Region auditions. More than 1000 participated in solo & ensemble and 1400 earned membership in the Region I All-Region Band during the time Fred was the director. The Canadian band has also been represented by thirteen All-State performers, many making All-State multiple years, and 511 TSSEC musicians.
Fred received the Southwestern Bell Outstanding UIL Sponsor award in 1997, the Outstanding Service Award from Southwestern Oklahoma State University in 2003, and has served on ATSSB, TMEA, TBA, UIL, and Phi Beta Mu state committees.
Fred has also been a member of local civic clubs where he served as president of both Kiwanis and Rotary. He is a member of the United Methodist Church and has been chairman of many committees. He remains active as a clinician, adjudicator, and mentor. In his "spare" time he enjoys writing marching shows, playing golf, and traveling with his best friend and wife of forty-five years, Sheila.