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The Jewish Press of Tampa and the Jewish Press of Pinellas County are Independently- owned biweekly Jewish community newspapers published in cooperation with and supported by the Tampa JCC & Federation and the Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties, respectively. Copyright © 2009-2018 The Jewish Press Group of Tampa Bay, Inc., All Rights Reserved.


January 13, 2017  RSS feed
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Text: T T T

Popular band leader, radio host Kevin Frye dies

By BOB FRYER Jewish Press

Kevin Frye often served as emcee, entertained with the band or hosted the Sunday Simcha from Tampa Israel Independence celebrations. Kevin Frye often served as emcee, entertained with the band or hosted the Sunday Simcha from Tampa Israel Independence celebrations. In his too short lifetime, Kevin Frye wove himself into the fabric of the Tampa Bay Jewish community, delighting many with his musical talent, his wit and his deep commitment to Jewish values.

On Sunday, Dec. 25, Kevin Ira Frye, 48, died after a battle with cancer. He was owner and talent coordinator for Kevin Frye Entertainment and, since his good friend Mike Eisenstadt died in 2005, leader of the Mike Eisenstadt Band. Both his entertainment company and the band were popular at Jewish events throughout the Tampa Bay area, including many bar/bat mitzvahs, weddings, Torah dedications and Israel Independence Day celebrations. He also was co-host of the WMNF-FM Sunday Simcha Show, filling in after Eisenstadt died and later teaming with Steve Schwersky. The program highlights Jewish music as well as Jewish community news and talk about Israel.

Kevin Frye Kevin Frye He was administrative director at Congregation Beth Shalom in Brandon for many years and for the last 10 years also served as soloist at the synagogue on the High Holy Days.

In her eulogy, Rabbi Betsy Torop of Beth Shalom in Brandon commented, “No one who heard Kevin play trumpet ever forgot it. It was a sound that brought people together, a sound that was heard on high, not only reflecting Kevin’s unsurpassed talent, but joy, wonder, sadness and hope – the depth of his spirit, the depth of the human spirit, through the sound of a musical instrument. … Kevin – quite literally – blew everyone away.”

Rabbi Torop said Frye “lived the values of his Jewish upbringing” and added, “The joyful celebrations of hundreds of b’nai mitzvah families, brides and grooms were enriched by his skill and spirit. Everyone in the Jewish community knew Kevin; Jews of all denominations and levels of observance embraced him as a friend …[and] danced to the Klezmer music he played with the band …”

“I loved him,” said Antone Affronti of Lake Mary, who for some 25 years was the drummer in the Mike Eisenstadt Band. He said Frye was a superb musician and a good friend. Affronti, who is not Jewish, said he relished playing at many Jewish events in the area with Frye and getting to know and like Jewish traditions and values. “We played Jewish music like no one played it. The musicianship quality was tops,” he said. “It was an honor to treasure the experiences, the music at the events, and to cherish the brotherhood and love we had.”

Affronti said he and band member Tony King would love for the band to continue, but without someone else stepping up to fill the shoes of Frye – probably an impossible task, he said – the days of the Mike Eisenstadt band are likely over.

Along with leading the band, over the years Frye had the opportunity to perform with many greats such as The O’Jays, Whitney Houston, Bobby Rydell, Skitch Henderson, Al Hirt and Jewish entertainers including Sam Glaser and Paul Zim.

Schwersky said he got to know Frye well during the six years they were volunteer co-hosts for the Sunday Simcha on WMNF. “We had such a good rapport,” Schwersky said. “He will sorely be missed. He had so many connections in the community and was truly a good man.”

Born in New York, he moved to the area in 1972. He earned a bachelor’s degree in trumpet performance and master’s degree in music conducting from the University of South Florida in Tampa. He played with the Florida Orchestra from 1988-91 and was a member of the Florida Wind Band.

A longtime music educator, Frye started the music program and served as band director at Durant High and most recently was orchestra director at Madison Middle School.

Survivors include his wife Christina; daughters and son-in-law Kelsey and Brandon Shepherd and Kyra Frye, all of Brandon; parents Michael and Gail Frye of Gulfport; brother and sister-in-law Marc and Jacquie Frye of Las Vegas, NV and one grandson. The family suggests memorial contributions to Moffitt Cancer Center or to a college fund being established for his grandson. (Segal Funeral Home, Beth David Chapel).

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