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Sinfonia News

December 7, 2004


Frederick Fennell with the 2000-2003 National Executive CommitteeAround noon on Tuesday, December 7, 2004, the National Headquarters staff received word that beloved Sinfonian Dr. Frederick Fennell, Alpha Nu (Eastman) '34, passed away peacefully at his home early that morning. Brother Fennell was known by thousands of Sinfonians for his pioneering work in the wind ensemble movement. Hundreds of brothers had the incredible opportunity to spend several days with Brother Fennell just last summer during Sinfonia's 2003 National Convention, at which Brother Fennell received the prestigious Charles E. Lutton Man of Music Award and delivered the keynote address.

The following message was sent by Brother Fennell's daughter to a host of representatives in the musical community, and it has since been forwarded throughout the world. Her message speaks for itself:

-----Original Message-----
From: Cathy Fennell Martensen
Sent: Tuesday, December 07, 2004 10:37 AM
Subject: Fred Fennell

I want you, and the greater music community to know that my father died peacefully in his sleep early this morning, Tuesday, December 7, 2004. Elizabeth and I were by his side. I had promised him that I would do all I could to get him back to Siesta Key so he could watch the sun set over the ocean. With the help of Hospice, he arrived home in time to see the brilliant orange and pinks in the western skies last evening. A bit before Midnight, dad told me he was "frustrated and disappointed." When I asked him, "Why?" he replied, "There's no drummer here yet. I can't die without a drummer!" I told him that I loved him, and that "Heaven's best drummer was on the way." Moments later he said, "I hear him! I hear him! I'm OK now." This was my final conversation with my dad.

I was blessed to be able to dress my father in his finest set of tails after he died, complete with the usual struggle with his tie. Elizabeth asked if he could be "dressed up" and I could think of nothing finer for a lasting memory. Dad asked to be cremated and that I scatter his ashes in the woods at Interlochen, Michigan this summer. This, of course, I will do.

Elizabeth is OK at this point. We are closely watching her, monitoring her blood sugar levels and seeing that she gets the diet and rest she needs after such a life transition.

There will be a small Memorial Service at a church in Siesta Key. No date or time has been set yet. As knowledge of my father's death is communicated, please keep both Elizabeth and me in your prayers.

Fondly > Cathy Fennell Martensen

A detailed biography of Brother Fennell's career was published in the December 2002 issue of The Sinfonian, and is included below. Even this lengthy biography was drastically abbreviated from his complete list of professional accomplishments. As all who knew him can attest, the man was far more than any biography could ever portray, and those Sinfonians lucky enough to have met, talked with, or performed under Brother Fennell know first hand just how much he will be missed.

2003 Man of Music Frederick Fennell

Frederick Fennell     Frederick Fennell was born in Cleveland, Ohio, on July 2, 1914. He studied at the Eastman School of Music, Rochester, NY (BM, 1937; MM 1939). He spent the summers 1931-33 at National Music Camp, Interlochen, Michigan, where he began study of conducting. He became a scholarship student at Eastman School of Music; was awarded the International Fellowship in Conducting, which afforded him study in the Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria. In 1938 he became a member of the Eastman conducting faculty. Highlights of his early career include: Guest Conductor, the Mozart Orchestra of Salzburg, 1938; Guest Conductor, New York Federal Symphony, 1939; Guest conductor, Philadelphia Little Symphony, 1940; Conductor of the National Music Camp, 1940 & 1941; Private pupil of Serge Koussevitzky, 1942; Became National USO Music Advisor in 1943; Return to Rochester, 1945, as Associate Conductor Eastman Orchestra; Conductor Yaddo Music Period, 1946, Saratoga, New York; Guest conductor First Contemporary American Music Festival, University of Washington, Seattle, 1947; Guest conductor Houston Symphony Orchestra 1948; awarded citation by the National Association for American Conductors and Composers for outstanding services on behalf of American Music; appointed assistant to Serge Koussevitzky in orchestra conducting Berkshire Music Center, Tanglewood, 1948; frequent guest conductor Boston Pops Orchestra, 1949-1978; Conductor Columbia University American Festival, 1949; Conductor and Musical Director Summertime Light Opera Company, Houston, Texas, 1949 & 1950; guest conductor Carnegie Hall “Pops”, 1950; Boston Esplanade Concerts; and conductor Silver Anniversary Yaddo Music Period 1952.

     Fennell founded The Eastman Wind Ensemble 1952, with which he recorded twenty-two albums of music for Mercury Records. He was the Conductor for ten seasons of The Eastman Opera Theatre 1953-62. He was conductor of The Eastman-Rochester Pops Orchestra in a series of Mercury Records; as well as guest conductor with the New Orleans Philharmonic, Denver, National, Hartford, and St. Louis Symphonies, The Cleveland Orchestra, The London Symphony, The Buffalo, Calgary, and Greater Miami Philharmonic Orchestras. He was the Resident Conductor for the Miami Philharmonic 1974-75; co-conductor Eastman Philharmonic’s three-month tour of Western Europe, the mid-East, and Russia, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, 1961-62; Associate Music Director Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra 1962-64; Conductor-in-Residence, University of Miami School of Music, 1965-80; Musical Director The School Orchestra of America, 1965 & 1966; and Principal Guest Conductor, Interlochen Arts Academy.

     His amazing skills as a conductor have not been unnoticed, as one may tell from the numerous awards he has been bestowed. He received an Honorary Doctor of Music Degree from Oklahoma City University in 1967; was the recipient of 25th Anniversary Columbia University Ditson Conductors Award, April 1969; and The New England Conservatory’s Symphonic Wind Ensemble Citation in 1970. Mercury Record Corporation Gold Record, 1970; National Academy of Wind and Percussion Arts “Oscar” for outstanding service as a conductor, 1975. He was the 1985 Recipient of the Star of the Order John Philip Sousa Memorial Foundation and the A.A. Harding Award of the American of School Band Directors Association. He was awarded the Citation and Medal from the Congressional Committee for the Centennial of the Civil War for a 2 volume recording, The Music of the Civil War, 1961; Honored Member American Federation of Musicians, 1962; Kappa Kappa Psi Distinguished Service Medal, 1962; Honorary Life Member College Band Directors National Association, 1985; New York State Band Directors Association Bandstand Award, 1987; New York State School Music Association Great Gifts Award, 1987; Interlochen Medal of Honor, 1989; Mid-West International Band & Orchestra Clinic Medal of Honor. He was inducted into the National Band Association Hall of Fame for Distinguished Band Conductors, 1990. He was the recipient of a Special Award “In recognition of unparalleled leadership and service to Wind Band performance throughout the world” 1990 from North Central CBDNA. The Fennell/Eastman Wind Ensemble recording of Percy Grainger’s Lincolnshire Posey was selected one of the Fifty Best Recordings of the Centenary of the Phonograph: 1877-1977, Stereo Review, July 1977. As Conductor of the Cleveland Symphonic Winds, he made the first symphonic digital recording in the United States for Telarc Records. He was appointed Conductor of The Tokyo Kosei Wind Orchestra in 1984, with which he recorded for CBS/Sony, Nippon Columbia, King and Kosei Labels. He was named Conductor Laureate in 1999. Named the Principal Guest Conductor of the Dallas Wind Symphony in 1987, he pioneered HDCD recording with them on five releases.

     Dr. Fennell became the only civilian conductor of the U.S. Marine Band in 1997 and again led The President’s Own in 1999 to celebrate the band’s 200th Anniversary. His 1954 book Time and the Winds is still the only text of its kind; author of the continuing series The Basic Band Repertory —Study/Performance Essays; editor, contemporary editions of classic military, circus, and concert marches for Theodore Presser Co., Carl Fisher, Inc., Sam Fox Publishing Co., Boosey & Hawkes, Inc., and of the Fennell Editions for Ludwig Music Co., Inc.

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