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Frank Kuntz Marries Music With Humor
Montana Senior News August/September 2017
Considering how many different hats Frank Kuntz has worn during his lifetime he could make any milliner happy. In Frank’s case, the hats happen to be both figurative and literal. While these days you will likely see him wearing a baseball cap when picking Lamberts, Lapins, and Rainiers at his Flathead Lake cherry orchard, he also occasionally dons sombreros, tophats, bowlers, and berets when entertaining audiences as a humorist.

No matter which hat Frank has sported in his life, music has always played a role—both starring and supporting—in whatever he does. His first love is the piano, which Frank has performed on since childhood and which he currently teaches to private students and plays for Bigfork Community United Methodist Church. He affectionately calls it, “The King Of Instruments” and views it as an essential presence in homes with youngsters.

“A piano is a kid magnet at any age. Kids are drawn to it and have fun with the sounds they can create. From an educational standpoint,” adds Frank, “it’s also mathematical and helps kids learn to memorize things.”
To keep his own fingers limber, Frank practices piano daily. He plays Bach and Grieg compositions, among others, and is always adding to his repertoire.

It seems fitting that this proud grandpa would choose a Victor Borge quote, “A smile is the shortest distance between two people,” as a motto to live by since, like the Danish-American entertainer, Frank is a humorist and
classically trained pianist. Both of these individuals could have played the concert circuit but instead used their musical skills as a vehicle to help people laugh.

For much of his life, Frank has entertained audiences of all ages at circus shows and on showboats, at television studios and in theme parks including Disneyland. He has also given motivational speeches to encourage others to employ humor as a way to communicate whatever message they want to convey.

“Humor should be a part of your personality. It’s not just silliness; it helps you come across as approachable. It’s a wonderful tool for caring and loving. Love produces joy and joy produces laughter,” says Frank. “Life is all about laughter, looking at the world in a light-hearted way, and not taking yourself too seriously.”

Incorporating the piano into his comedy sketches was a natural step for Frank, who was as influenced by Jimmy Durante as he was by Victor Borge. He admires “The Schnoz’s” ragtime and jazz-inflected piano riffs as much as his sense of humor and timing.

“In comedy as well as acting, timing is essential. You are delivering a personality,” explains Frank. “Knowing when to pause is a gift that can make an audience laugh.”

Jack Benny’s routine in which a mugger points a gun at him demanding, “Your money or your life” exemplifies what Frank means. The comedian’s reply of a long silence followed by his immortal, “I’m thinking it over” inevitably elicits audience chuckles.

Advice from the late gossip columnist Elsa Maxwell has also shaped Frank’s approach to humor. “She said to laugh at yourself first before others do. That takes genuine humility but people can identify with it. We all have faults. If you can laugh at them it helps the audience relax and feel comfortable with you,” states Frank. “Making light of my own mistakes has become part of my philosophy.”

Additionally, Frank has become known for another unusual claim to fame. He owns a shiny 44-pipe air calliope named Penelope that was hand-built by his father during the 1970’s and gifted to him and his family. For most of the year, Penelope remains in storage. But with the advent of summer, Frank unwraps it to make an appearance at special community events such as Bigfork’s Independence Day parade. Penelope’s hand-tooled brass whistles can be heard within a half-mile radius.

“The calliope, which some call a callyope, is a truly American instrument. The only other instrument invented in America was the banjo in 1830. The calliope was patented in 1855 and designed to produce loud melodic rhythmic music over long distances,” recounts Frank. “Its function was to promote parades, circuses, showboats, and other celebrations. Since it can be heard from far away it was great at drawing people to upcoming events. P.T. Barnum, the circus showman, was especially successful at incorporating it into his promotional strategy announcing circus shows.”

Other than being a parade attraction, Penelope has also starred in a short Christian children’s movie Frank wrote and produced with his brother, Darryl. And it has inspired him to write original piano scores with the calliope sound in mind, which Frank describes as happy-sad and reminiscent of old-time America.

“It has to be an outdoor instrument because it’s so loud,” says Frank, who wears ear protection whenever he plays Penelope. “There’s nothing electronic about it. Everything is pneumatic. The action isn’t as quick as a piano’s, it has a slower keyboard, but it’s still conducive to playing waltzes, fox trots, and marches.”

As a tribute to his dad and to Penelope, Frank penned the following poem in their honor and called it “The Callyope Is Here.”
“He had a TV and a radio.
He thought that they were swell.
He loved the piano and accordian
and he played them fairly well.
But came the day that it was time
to realize his hope,
he built a music whistle blower
that’s called a “callyope.”
Working hard for seven years
to create a joyful sound.
Assembling parts and pipes of brass
wherever they were found.
When finished he did play it.
It was a special treat.
With all the doors and iwndows closed.
You heard it down the street.
He played it in the circus tents.
he played it in parades,
at picnics and grand openings
and shopping mall arcades.
He brought it down to Texas
to play it at the fair.
People came from miles around
‘cause the “callyope” was there.

A machine that spreads its love around
with music so sublime
it grabs the heart and touches soul
with sounds of summer time.
Down the street around the bend
a joyful noise so dear.
‘There it is!’ I hear them shout,
‘The Callyope is here!’”
For more information, visit or contact Frank at 406-207-6808 or via