Frederick Fennell (1914-2004) began his career as a conductor almost as soon as he arrived at the University of Rochester’s Eastman School of Music in the fall of 1933 when, to his amazement, he discovered that no wind band of any kind existed at either campus. He then devoted a considerable portion of the next 30 years of his life to the amicable amelioration of this condition, organizing and conducting outdoor and indoor groups, which led him to establish the Eastman Wind Ensemble in 1952. He conducted the group for its first decade, and spread wide its simple message through the Eastman/Mercury Records American music recording project at the invitation of composer and Eastman Director Howard Hanson. The Wind Ensemble’s original 23 LPs, now in crossover to CDs, caused reconsideration of the wind medium as a serious artistic pursuit. Dr. Fennell later joined the Minneapolis Symphony as associate music director, and then moved to the University of Miami as conductor in residence. He was principal guest conductor of the Interlochen Arts Academy, and other guest conducting appearances include the Boston Pops Orchestra as well as performances with the Carnegie Hall Pops Concerts and the Boston Esplanade concerts. He also conducted the Denver, San Diego, National, Hartford, St. Louis and London Symphonies; the Buffalo, Calgary and Greater Miami Philharmonic Orchestras, the Cleveland Orchestra and the New Orleans Philharmonic. In 1984, at the invitation of its players he became the initial principal conductor of the Tokyo Kosei Wind Orchestra of Japan and later, conductor laureate.
Dr. Fennell was also part of pioneering recordings with the Cleveland Symphonic Winds and Dallas Wind Symphony. A legion of additional honors include an honorary doctorate from the University of Rochester; the Honor Medal of Interlochen, the Midwest Clinic, and the John Philip Sousa Society; a concert hall built in his name in Kofu, Japan; and the 1994 Theodore Thomas Award of the Conductor’s Guild. The 1993 Roger Rickson bio-discography, Fortissimo, (Ludwig Music, Inc., publisher) covers in a fat format the past 40 years of the Fennell story as well as Robert Simon’s new book, Fennell: A Tribute to Frederick Fennell, which includes the following quote:
For over seven decades, Frederick Fennell has been America's Ambassador of music around the world. I have loved his editions and recordings since I first played them in high school. It was an honor to have him conduct the Marine Band as President and I congratulate him on this richly deserved lifetime achievement tribute and award.
Principal Guest Conductor, Dallas Wind SymphonyDr. Frederick Fennell passed away peacefully at his home in Florida on December 7, 2004.
Dr. Frederick Fennell was one of the world's most active and innovative maestros. The globe-trotting nonagenarian was principal guest conductor of the Dallas Wind Symphony, principal conductor of the Tokyo Kosei Wind Orchestra in Japan, and Professor Emeritus at the University of Miami School of Music.
The internationally-acclaimed conductor was widely regarded as the leader of the wind ensemble movement in this country, one of America's most recording living American classical conductors, and a pioneer in various methods of recording.
While maintaining obvious devotion to the band and its music, he pursued such illustrious and wide ranging activities as conductor of orchestra, opera, and popular repertoire. He made guest conducting appearances with symphony orchestras and bands all over the world, was a member of many organizations, and won numerous awards.
Born July 2, 1914 in Cleveland, Ohio, the maestro studied at the Eastman School of Music on the University of Rochester campus, earning a Bachelor of Music degree in 1937 and a Master of Music degree two years later. He became a member of the Eastman conducting faculty in 1939, founded the Eastman Wind Ensemble in 1952, and received an Honorary Doctorate from Eastman in 1988.
High-fidelity and stereo performances on 22 albums for Mercury Records grant him a unique position in the annals of the recording art. He was conductor of the Cleveland Symphonic Winds when he made the first symphonic digital recording in the United States for Telarc Records in 1978. The maestro also pioneered high definition compatible digital (HDCD) recordings with the Dallas Wind Symphony. The maestro also recorded for CBS-Sony, Nippon-Columbia, King and Kosei labels.
Dr. Fennell served as conductor of the Columbia University American Festival, the National Music Camp, the Yaddo Music Period, the Eastman-Rochester Pops Orchestra and the Eastman Opera Theatre, among others.
He was principal guest conductor of the Interlochen Arts Academy, and other guest conducting stints included frequent appearances with the Boston Pops Orchestra as well as performances with the Carnegie Hall Pops Concerts and the Boston Esplanade concerts. He appeared with the Denver, San Diego, National, Hartford, St. Louis and London Symphonies; the Buffalo, Calgary and Greater Miami Philharmonic Orchestras, the Cleveland Orchestra and the New Orleans Philharmonic.
He was also Musical Director of the School Orchestra of America with which he toured Europe in the mid '60s.
Through the years, Dr. Fennell rose to legendary stature in the world of music and this is reflected in the honors bestowed upon him. These include an Honorary Doctor of Music degree from Oklahoma City University, membership in the Society of the Sons of the American Revolution, honorary chief status in the Kiowa tribe, and a fellow in the Company of Military Historians.
In 1961, he received a citation and a medal from the Congressional Committee for the Centennial of the Civil War for two volumes of recordings of the Music of the Civil War.
Also, he was the recipient of the 25th Anniversary of Columbia University Ditson Conductor's Award in April of 1969, and of the New England Conservatory's Symphonic Wind Ensemble Citation in 1970. He was also awarded the Mercury Record Corporation Gold Record in 1970, and the National Academy of Wind and Percussion Arts Oscar for outstanding service as a conductor in 1975.
The Fennell/Eastman Wind Ensemble recording of Percy Grainger's Linconshire Posy was selected as one of the Fifty Best Recordings of the Centenary of the Phonograph, 1877-1977, by the Stereo Review. In 1977, he was named consultant to the Scala Memorial Fund Library of Congress. That same year, he received the Eastman School of Music Alumni Citation for the 25th Anniversary of the founding of the Eastman Wind Ensemble.
He received the University of Rochester Outstanding Alumni Award in 1981, and the Kappa Kappa Psi Distinguished Service Medal in 1982.
He was presented the Star of the Order in 1985 from the John Philip Sousa Memorial Foundation.
Other distinctions include the Interlochen Medal of Honor and the Midwest International Band and Orchestra Clinic Medal of Honor, awarded in 1989. The following year, Dr. Fennell was inducted into the National Bandmasters Association Hall of Fame for Distiguished Band Conductors. In January of 1994, he received the Theodore Thomas Award presented by the Conductors Guild, Inc., in recognition of unparalleled leadership and service to windband performance throughout the world. The last two recipients of this award were maestros Solti and Bernstein.
He was the initial recipient of the Medal of the International Percy Grainger Society for Distinguished Services in 1991.
Frederick Fennell Hall was dedicated in Kofu, Japan, with a concert by the Tokyo Kosei Wind Orchestra on July 17, 1992.
Dr. Fennell authored several publications with musical
topics, including his 1954 book "Time and the Winds", which is still the
only text of its kind. He also authored the continuing series
"The Basic Band Repertory Study/Performance Essays", and was editor of 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.
[From the website of the Dallas
This interview was recorded in Chicago on December 16, 1987.
Portions were used on WNIB (along
with musical examples) on eight different broadcasts during the years 1989-99.
The transcription was made in 2008 and posted on this website in November
of that year.
To see a full list (with links) of interviews which have been transcribed and posted on this website, click here.
Award - winning broadcaster Bruce Duffie was with WNIB, Classical 97 in Chicago from 1975 until its final moment as a classical station in February of 2001. His interviews have also appeared in various magazines and journals since 1980, and he now continues his broadcast series on WNUR-FM, as well as on Contemporary Classical Internet Radio.You are invited to visit his website for more information about his work, including selected transcripts of other interviews, plus a full list of his guests. He would also like to call your attention to the photos and information about his grandfather, who was a pioneer in the automotive field more than a century ago. You may also send him E-Mail with comments, questions and suggestions.