Percussion has been Dean Kranzler’s passion since he was a toddler, but he never dreamed his drumming would someday lead to an induction into the Kansas Music Hall of Fame.

Even after Kranzler grew up and began playing drums and percussion in multiple Salina-area rock, jazz, country, funk and blues bands, and despite being the principal percussionist for the Salina Symphony for 40 years, musical immortality was the farthest thing from his mind.

"All I do is play, pack up and go on to the next gig," he said. "I’m still doing the same thing now that I’ve done for 40 years. And I’m having as much fun doing it now as I did back then."

Kranzler is a 2020 inductee into the Kansas Music Hall of Fame, both as a solo artist and as drummer for another 2020 Salina-based inductee, Midnight Flyer, a country rock band that played the area live music circuit from 1979 to 1983 and demonstrated such instrumental expertise that its members became session players at Sunset Recording Studios in Hays.

This year, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Kansas Music Hall of Fame will honor Kranzler, Midnight Flyer and eight other inductees during a virtual induction ceremony beginning at 7 p.m. July 25. For more information on the program, go to or email

Kranzler knew he was being nominated for the Kansas Music Hall of Fame this year but said it was still a surprise to be selected both as a solo performer and as part of Midnight Flyer, whose members also include Paul Draper, Leon Holl and the late Jack Trice.

"It’s an honor to be in that company and humbling to know I was voted in twice," Kranzler said.

Long overdue

Although Kranzler is humble about being inducted into the KMHOF, his induction is long overdue, said David Wiggins, a KMHOF board member and a former drum student of Kranzler.

"When you think of drummers in Kansas, he’s the first guy that comes to mind," said Wiggins, who was the original drummer for the late blues rock guitarist Mark Selby’s band The Sluggers and now teaches band in the Southern Cloud school district. "He’s a legacy that keeps on going."

Kranzler not only is a consummate performing musician, Wiggins said, he’s been an inspiring teacher for decades.

"He changed my life forever, when I was 14 and trying to decide what to do with my life and wanting to be good at something," Wiggins said. "He taught me discipline and how to practice. He also taught me how to have fun."

During a 45 year-plus teaching career, Wiggins said, Kranzler has given more than 103,000 music lessons, both privately and in various academic institutions.

"And after each of those lessons, kids come out pumped up and excited," Wiggins said. "Dean builds self-esteem. He knows if you can get a kid to believe in himself, he’ll continue to work hard. He has the skill to make you feel good about doing it right. But he’s also got high expectations. When you come to his lessons, he expects you to be ready. And he knows if you aren’t ready."

Music educator

Kranzler has a bachelor’s degree in music education from the former Marymount College in Salina and a master’s degree in percussion performance from Fort Hays State University. After graduating from FHSU, Kranzler became head of the percussion department there, where he taught for 35 years until his recent retirement.

He also headed the Marymount College percussion department for 12 years, until the college closed in 1989, and the percussion department at Bethany College for 30 years until he left in 2012.

Kranzler currently is head of percussion studies at Kansas Wesleyan University and teaches privately at S.M. Hanson Music in Salina. He is a member of the Kansas Music Educators Association, the National Association of College Wind and Percussion Instructors, the Percussive Arts Society and the National Drum Association.

For Kranzler, it’s impossible to separate his performance and teaching lives.

"I wouldn’t enjoy one without the other," he said. "They just both go together so well."

Legendary versatility

Juggling an extensive teaching and performance schedule through the decades, it’s a wonder Kranzler ever found time to sleep.

As a performing musician, his versatility became legendary in such diverse genres as rock, jazz, blues, funk, country, gospel, Big Band, Dixieland, world music and classical. In his long career, he has drummed for such diverse local bands as the rocking horn band The Blades and the smooth jazz ensemble Jazz Tangent.

Kranzler also has been an integral part of the Wheatland Brass Quintet, Crossroads Worship Band, Trinity United Methodist Cantata Orchestra, ACME Fife and Drum and Salina-based swing singer Les Lankhorst’s big band ensemble. For 40 years, Kranzler also has been principal percussionist for the Salina Symphony.

Adrienne Allen, executive director of the Salina Symphony, said Kranzler is a gifted musician who inspires others with "a heart for serving and teaching."

"Dean has had an incredibly positive impact on many fellow musicians and students throughout his career," Allen said. "I’m delighted that he is being inducted into the Kansas Music Hall of Fame. I can’t think of anyone more deserving."

The coolest guy

Lankhorst, a Salina native who has performed his repertoire of classic swing tunes throughout the world and in numerous Salina concerts, said if he had his choice, Kranzler would accompany him to every concert location.

"Dean’s up there with the best I’ve ever worked with," Lankhorst said. "He’s a stellar musician who has taught me so much over the years. Plus, he’s the coolest guy to hang out with. In my kind of music, it’s not always easy to find someone who likes to swing the way I like to swing, but Dean knows every kind of music and knows what everyone else should be doing too."

Kranzler said he enjoys playing all genres because each one has something different to teach him and he’s always learning something new.

"In percussion, you play every type of music, from rock to jazz to symphonies," he said. "I love learning new music. I’m learning new things all the time."

Professional curiosity

Brandon Draper, the son of Kranzler’s Midnight Flyer bandmate keyboardist Paul Draper and a former percussion student of Kranzler, said percussionists often tend to specialize in one genre. That’s hardly the case with Kranzler.

"Dean is versatile and has great professional curiosity," said Draper, a professor of percussion in the music department at the University of Kansas and director of Drum Safari, a performance-based educational program for children. "Dean’s pursued everything with equal interest and always embraced new things, from Arabic to Middle Eastern music. He shares his enthusiasm with his students, as well as life lessons. It’s no surprise that a lot of his students become educators themselves."

Draper said Kranzler is so beloved because he’s made Salina home for his entire career and has built a stellar reputation as a teacher and mentor for thousands of students in central Kansas.

"Dean is easily the most influential music educator in this area of all time, and that’s because he remained in Salina and built a great legacy here," Draper said. "Dean was my mentor and still is. He and my dad are the most influential musicians and men in my life."

Draper said it pleases him that his father, a legendary local rock and blues organist and keyboardist, and Kranzler, "my second dad," are still making music together nearly 40 years after Midnight Flyer disbanded.

"They’re both still working hard, still recording, still playing as they have for decades," Draper said. "They’re having more fun playing together now than ever."