Venue Manager Frank Flood retires from the Academy of Music after 32 years

-Brenda Hillegas
photos by Morgan Horell, Kimmel Cultural Campus

When Frank Flood was 17 years old, a buddy from high school got a job as an usher at the Academy of Music. Soon after starting, this friend reached out to Frank with a plea for help.

“My friend found out he’d be working with a bunch of retirees,” Frank laughs. “He said “Frank, I need you to come work with me! I’m going crazy with nobody to talk to that’s my age!’”

Frank was hesitant. But this friend insisted. “He offered to drive me home – out of his way – on nights when shows ran late. And he told me that once the audience was seated, I could sit down and do my homework!”

So he agreed. That was 1972. Now, after a short hiatus to raise a family and with the official title of Venue Manager at the Academy of Music, Frank Flood is retiring. His last day is next week, August 1st, and The Kimmel Cultural Campus, which has been central to shaping his life in so many ways, will be sad to see him go.  

Though Frank was uncertain about taking on the usher role at first- mostly because he was unfamiliar with the arts, opera, classical music- his nightly exposure helped his appreciation grow and is why he stayed for so many years. Early on, a fellow usher, Mark, who happened to be an opera buff and a Spanish teacher, asked Frank if he could help grade some of his students’ papers during a performance’s lengthy stay at the Academy. 

“After people were seated, night in and night out, I’d grade these papers,” Frank says. “The opera music at that time really started to speak to me. I’d quickly finish the papers and then asked my friend if I could sneak in to watch the opera.”

Frank was mesmerized. The voice? It was Luciano Pavarotti.

“And that was my entry into the arts,” Frank says. 

In 1978, six years after he started ushering, Frank was working at Door 5 when he looked over and noticed an usher named Pam at door 6. “I got to get to know her,” Frank said about that day. Pam ended up asking him to help her dodge a bartender she wasn’t interested in and soon enough Frank and Pam became the first two ushers at the Academy of Music to get engaged to one another. 

“The general manager at the time gifted us the Academy Ballroom to use for our wedding!” Frank says. 

The wedding took place on December 13th, 1980. Their son was born in 1985 and a daughter in 1987. It was then that Frank left the Academy of Music to help raise his family. In the early 2000s when his son began studying at Temple University, Frank reached out to the Academy to see if they would offer his son the same usher job he once had. Of course, the answer was yes. Frank had another question…could he come back too? And then his daughter? Yes!

In 2006, Frank was given a brand new role. The very first Venue Manager for the Academy of Music. He would now oversee the safety and maintenance of the venue and staff that meant so much to him throughout four decades. 

“My wife never minded me having a love affair with another woman,” Frank jokes. “That woman- the Academy of Music!”  

Frank and wife Pam

The Academy of Music is so special to Frank and his family. The people he met there are the memories he cherishes the most. From celebrities like Al Pacino, and activists like Coretta Scott King, to his beloved wife Pam, who sadly passed away in March of 2020. Frank shares a memory from when the two of them, still in their usher uniforms, met Pavarotti. “I brought an album for him to sign. He looked at my wife- because she’s so beautiful- and asked her name.  He signed it to her!”

Frank looks forward to spending more time with his family and realizes it was time to pass the torch to a new Venue Manager. “One of my best bosses- Maureen Lynch- taught me everything I know. She retired. And my ‘brother from another mother’, Cornell Wood, the first African American head usher at the Academy of Music, also retired [last year]. I tried to talk him out of it and go out with me! It took a lot out of me when those two left. I was the last musketeer standing.” 

Once he is officially retired, Frank plans to read more books, start working out and is excited to help his grandchildren get ready for school. Though his last day is August 1st, he will stick around for the month to make sure the Academy of Music is in good hands. He wants to mentor his successor and teach them the things that aren’t in books or binders. 

“I want them to have a passion, to look out for her and know when she needs to be taken care of,” he says of the building. “She’s been here since 1857. I want to make sure she’s here for another 100 years.”

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