The Gateway Community Band has announced the retirement of it founding music conductor, Kenneth H. Feneley. Starting in March of 2005 with 25 or so musicians, many of whom had not played a note in decades, he built a respectable wind and percussion ensemble that has numbered over 60 players.
Any band conductor is in reality, a teacher. Ken’s passion for teaching music and education in general was evident during his 35 year career in public schools including stops at Mackinaw City, Engadine, Gladwin and Mt. Pleasant before spending 26 years with the Clare public schools beginning in 1967.
Teaming with fellow band director and composer, Lloyd Conley, these two saw the Clare Band program grow to over 350 students at one point. Not content with having his players ‘just play’, Ken consistently promoted his concept of working on the smallest detail make a big difference in the overall performance. As a result, his student musicians compiled an enviable record of top awards.
The approach used in his school band has also been effective with the adults in the Gateway Band. Ken has conducted 4 to five concerts per year using 6 to 8 weekly rehearsals and a complete new program for each concert. Utilizing a firm hand and his own style of humor, each practice would be a wonderful combination of hard work and laughter. Keeping the experienced musicians challenged with more difficult music while incorporating new members getting used to playing again isn’t an easy task. Ken has made it work each week so all concerned are contributing to the best possible performance.
Now at age 78 and in good health, Ken will conduct his last complete concert on Thursday, May 8th in Farwell’s Jamie Performing Arts Center. He then will be devoting more time doing music arranging for his alma mater, CMU, as well as the Clare Bands and the Gateway Community Band. Next fall, the Gateway Band will have a new conductor and Ken Feneley will be found in the trombone section, contributing as a musician.