Vincent DeFrank, founder and musical director of the Memphis Symphony Orchestra (MSO) from 1960 to 1983, was born June 18, 1915, in Long Island, New York. He first studied violin under George Frenz from 1920 to 1933 before converting to cello, studying with Percy Such and Georges Miquella. He attended the Juilliard School of Music from 1937 to 1940, studying conducting with Albert Stoessel. During this period he was briefly a member of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra (1939-40) before coming to Memphis as Director of the Second Army Headquarters Band. He was principal cellist of the MSO under Burnet Tuthill, where he remained until its disbanding in 1949. DeFrank was also a member of the Memphis Open Air Theater pit orchestra, Memphis Concert Orchestra, and both WMPS and WMC radio staff ensembles. DeFrank was an adjunct member of the St. Louis Symphony from 1947 through 1950 and attended Indiana University from 1950 to 1952, studying cello with Fritz Magg. He returned to Memphis in 1952, where he formed the Memphis Sinfonietta, a precursor to the MSO.
DeFrank holds several honorary educational degrees and awards. He was the recipient of an award from the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers in 1967; Southwestern at Memphis (now Rhodes College) awarded him a Doctorate of Music in 1974; and he received the Outstanding Tennessean Award in 1981. He is a lifelong member of the American Federation of Musicians Locals 71 and 802.
Roy C. Brewer, “Professional Musicians in Memphis (1900-1950): A Tradition of Compromise,” (Ph.D. diss., University of Memphis, 1996)