Our blog and Radio Show celebrates the life of Joann Fivel, teacher, leader, mentor, and musician. The new school year is a wonderful opportunity to start learning a musical instrument to learn discipline, cooperation, teamwork, motivation, concentration and self-esteem. Studying a musical instrument develops millions of new connections, synapses, between nerve cells in the brain. Many of the world’s teachers, scientists, medical doctors, mathematicians, engineers, dentists, CPAs, and others have studied and played musical instruments since they were children. These eminent individuals have integrated music into their thinking process.

Also included is an article on how listening to classical music can improve the quality of life in heart patients. Our article of the month is “Turning Enemies Into Friends:The Ben Franklin Effect” by Madeline Frank,Ph.D.

Radio Show Feature Question for September 2020: How did Classical music play a part of Joann Fivel’s life as a teacher, leader, mentor, and musician and what musical instruments did she play?



My favorite teacher at Ferguson High School in Newport News, Virginia was Joann Fivel. She taught by example and used humor to do it. She cared about her students and inspired, encouraged, and motivated them to do their best!

Early Years:

Joann Louise Fivel grew up in Roanoke, Virginia. In second-grad, Joann was provided with a violin and began lessons. In the fourth grade she began playing the viola. “By age 15, she was performing with the Roanoke Symphony, something she credits to her school’s early string programs.”

College & University:

Joann Fivel earned her B.S. in Elementary Education English at Longwood College in Farmville.

Later Miss Fivel, attended Yale University, joined a Humanities program, and played in the Yale Symphony Orchestra.

Schools taught at:

Miss Fivel began teaching English in 1959 at Denbigh Elementary School, working as a seventh-grade teacher for one year. Then she taught at Warwick Junior High School that changed its name to Ferguson High School. When Ferguson High School closed in 1995, she taught at Warwick High School. Miss Fivel taught for 40 years, 1959-1999.

Erika Reif of the Daily Press: When she booms a question to the class, her open hands shoot out high in front of her. Each word is clear. Her deep voice is edged with a scratchiness that works with her brand of humor – heavy sarcasm. Students tune into it. They feel kinship with a teacher who introduces a term, tongue in cheek: If you want to use the literary terminology that some people seem to be so fond of, it’s foreshadowing. Her no-nonsense approach seems to spur students. Even if some roll their eyes or smirk and giggle, they also raise their hands to speak, and participate in class discussions willingly.”

Harvey Perkins, Ferguson High graduate and latter Assistant Superintendent of Instruction says, “She has a really creative and unique way of interacting with today’s kids. Sometimes a teacher who has been in the system that long can get out of touch with kids. … (Joann) can joke with them and kid with them and still get significant work from them.”

Pat Seward, a 1968 Ferguson graduate, and she later became “a supervisor of language arts and reading with Newport News schools. She studied world literature under Fivel.”

“I remember her sharing some of her acting techniques with us. When reading a dramatic selection, she would demonstrate how it would look on stage. … She could create different characters with her voice.”

Students were inspired by Miss Fivel: She performed with the Peninsula Community Theater as an actress. She sang the lead in operas with the Newport News Operatic Society and was a violinist for the Peninsula Symphony. She conducted the Ferguson High School’s orchestra and played violin for the Hampton Jazz Festival’s Gladys Knight and the Pips.

Principal Stanley Mayo: “Fivel has a reputation for being demanding in the classroom. Mayo says students love her for that “tough teaching style. She also has been the faculty force behind homecoming and student government for 24 years.”

She worked tirelessly, to oversee “each homecoming dance and parade, attended weekly SCA meetings and guided student projects such as blood drives and cleaning the campus.”

Ferguson High School Class of 1993 Vice President Leigh Ann Manning says, “She remembers Fivel taking her out to dinner with another student as reward for a homecoming well-done. It was a personal gesture. I’ve never seen a teacher that dedicated. Some teachers will sponsor a club for a year or two and then quit. Manning says. “SCA” continued “because of Joann Fivel.”

Starting Orchestra with String Players at Ferguson High School: She studied the violin and viola from elementary school through high school playing in the school orchestras. She said, “String programs were in place at Huntington and Carver high schools in Newport News and at other schools around the state. Ferguson didn’t have one.”

When Ferguson High School decided to put on a Broadway musical that required string players, Fivel made the decision to find the string players needed and conduct the orchestra. “She advertised in the school bulletin and found several students who had been studying strings privately. She followed through by giving string lessons and directing the Ferguson’s first orchestra after school. On Saturdays, she helped direct an all-city orchestra for students.

When Miss Fivel saw a need she filled it! She said, “I agreed to prepare string players to blend with the band for an orchestra.” She did it, she says, “for those kids who voiced an interest and were willing to give their time before and after school for it.”

Dr. Frank: “As a 14 year old violinist at Ferguson High School, I played violin for Miss Fivel’s school orchestra that she conducted in the late 60s. She took us to all these places so we could participate. She was the only person holding it together. She did it for the love of it – she wasn’t getting anything for it. I remember her being a tough-talking teacher and having “a Margaret Thatcher iron fist. She cared and wanted us to do our best job in whatever music we were performing. She led by example. When we were struggling with a full Broadway score and having trouble playing it, she would pick a violin and show us how to do it. She’d sing, she’d play, anything to get us to do it right. She was respected, feared and loved.”

Dr. Frank: “Later as a teacher and performer I appreciate Miss Fivel’s direct methods.”

Fivel says, “In the beginning it was the music things. Now it’s SCA.” What motivated Miss Fivel? She says, “I just like working with the students.”

Loyalty: Miss Fivel: “If you teach anywhere for a period of time, you develop a loyalty to that school. Most teachers have a real affection for where they work.”

Fivel says, “she went into the profession totally committed. She never married or had children, although she sometimes says her children number “about 150” per school year.” That’s 6,000 children.

Ellen McDade, a former student said, “she frequently ran into Fivel and her mother in restaurants or department stores. And although McDade graduated in 1975, Fivel would be interested in talking and catching up.” Miss Fivel “always asked her about her life beyond academics. “Even after I graduated, she was still very interested in me as an individual. So often when you see teachers out, they don’t want you bothering them when they’re on their own time.” McDade says Miss Fivel “cared for her mother until she died. Something that I consider noble.”

Miss Fivel inspired, encourage, and motivated you to do your best work! She cared about you and believed in you before you believed in yourself! She led the way by example. She would demonstrate how to do the work and then have you try it. She raised the bar of excellence!

Joann Fivel was teacher, leader, conductor, choir master, mentor, actress, accomplished violinist and sang with a beautiful voice. She was a member of Peninsula Symphony Orchestra, Peninsula Community Theater, Virginia State College Orchestra, National Thespian Society, Yale Symphony Orchestra, and the Newport News Operatic Society. She was the first orchestra conductor at Ferguson High School and was the Choir Director at a local church. Joann Fivel’s brilliant light was extinguished on March 19, 2005 at the age of 68. She leaves a lasting legacy of teaching 4 generations of students to be excellent teachers, leaders, mentors, coaches, and thinkers. She taught 6000 students in 40 years. In heaven she is leading the choir and playing on her violin.

Turning Enemies Into Friends: The Ben Franklin Effect

 By Madeline Frank, Ph.D. 

Is it possible to turn an enemy into someone who pays you the respect you deserve? Can you build a strong positive relationship with your enemy?

Benjamin Franklin was a Founding Father of the U.S. On July 1, 1731, Benjamin Franklin and his friends, his mastermind members, began The Library Company of Philadelphia. The first free library for borrowing books.

He was the only founding father to sign all four of the key documents establishing the U.S.: The Declaration of Independence (1776), the Treaty of Alliance with France (1778), the Treaty of Paris establishing peace with Great Britain (1783) and the U.S. Constitution (1787).

In 1736, Benjamin Franklin was “chosen” without opposition as a clerk of the General Assembly in the Pennsylvania legislature. The next year, a new influential member of the legislature gave “a long speech” against Franklin favoring Franklin’s opponent.

Despite the speech against him, Franklin was chosen to continue as clerk of the General Assembly. He also served the state house via his printing business. (Franklin’s company secured the printing business for all of “the votes, laws, paper money, and other occasional jobs for the public.”)

Franklin chose a strategic path focusing on building a relationship with this adversarial member by taking an interest in what he was interested in. (Finding common ground with him!)

Franklin heard that this vocal, yet influential opponent, “had in his library a certain very scarce and curious book.”

Franklin: “I wrote a note to him, expressing my desire of perusing that book, and requested that he would do me the favour of lending it to me for a few days.”

Franklin revealed an astounding outcome of this event in his memoir. “He sent it immediately; and I returned it in about a week with another note, expressing strongly my sense of the favour. When we next met in the house, he spoke to me (which he had never done before), and with great civility; and he ever after manifested a readiness to serve me on all occasions, so that we became great friends, and our friendship continued to his death.”

Instead of avoiding a confrontational advisory, Franklin took an interest in something that this gentleman was passionate about. This technique is used countless times every day by leaders and other influential people.

We all have situations where we have avoided a conversation or opponent. Are you willing to humble yourself to ask a favor of someone?

What would happen if you decided to “tune in” to some of their interests? You may be able to build a fantastic bridge that could last a lifetime.

If you need a video speaker contact Madeline at: [email protected]



“Listening to Recorded Classical Music Shown to Improve Quality of Life in Patients with Heart Failure” (July 16, 2020) by Heart Failure Society of America. “In the study Beneficial Effects of Listening to Classical Music in Patients With Heart Failure: A Randomized Controlled Trial, Francesco Burrai, RN, PhD, and a team of researchers at Sassari University Hospital in Sassari, Italy evaluated the effects of listening to classical music (in addition to standard medical treatment) on quality of life, sleep quality, anxiety, depression, and cognitive performance. The trial, conducted at 4 Italian cardiology institutions, enrolled 159 outpatients with documented chronic HF; patients in the experimental group listened to recorded classical music from a playlist of 80 different tracks for at least 30 minutes per day for 3 months while resting at home, whereas the control group received usual standard of care.”

“During the observation period, patients in the music group showed greater improvements in quality of life, sleep, reduction of both anxiety and depression levels, and cognitive performance.”

Dr. Burrai,”Our conclusions are that listening to classical music is a feasible, noninvasive and inexpensive intervention, on top of a good standard medical regimen, able to improve the quality of life in patients with heart failure in the home-care setting.”



“The Secret of Teaching Science & Math Through Music” by Madeline Frank, Ph.D. is available in book form, and newly updated as an e-book on Kindle, Nook, or iBook:


 “Musical Notes On Math” by Dr. Madeline Frank teaches your child fractions and decimals, the fun easy way, through the rhythm of music, Winner of the Parent To Parent Adding Wisdom Award is available in book form, newly updated as an e-book on Kindle, Nook, or iBook.:


 Madeline’s Midnight Melodies- Music From around the World”. This CD complements her books with a blend of dance music, gigues, tangos, ballet and favorites including “Danny Boy”, Puccini’s “O Mio Babbino Caro”, Debussy’s “Claire De Lune” and others. “Madeline’s Midnight Melodies” is music to relax by and to move by for music therapy.  “Madeline’s Midnight Melodies” CD is now available for purchase by downloading a song, downloading the album, or by CD by clicking below:

Download Your Copy Today!  Amazon | iTunes |

Dr. Madeline Frank’s book “Leadership on a Shoestring Budget” is available through amazon. To order your copy of “Leadership On A Shoestring Budget”  as an e-book on Kindle click on the following link:



Wishing you and your family a safe September, Labor Day Holiday, from Your Non-Invasive Medicine Music Expert, Madeline


For over 30 years, Dr. Madeline Frank has helped children and adults overcome problems through Classical music. Madeline Frank, Ph.D., DTM is an award-winning teacher, author, researcher, speaker, conductor, and concert artist. She has found a scientific link between studying and/or listening to musical instruments and academic and societal success. Madeline Frank earned her Bachelor and Master’s degree from the Juilliard School of Music. Her education has included scholarships at the Juilliard School, Indiana University, and the University of Cincinnati and she has a violin performance diploma from the North Carolina School of the Arts. (C) 2020 Madeline Frank.