Spotlight on Success

Faculty Member Dr. Chris Kenney

How did you choose a career in the arts?
I’ve always been artistically oriented as a child, drawing, painting, writing stories, and starting in trumpet lessons in the fourth grade. So, music chose me!

Where did you get your college degrees?
My undergraduate degree is from DePauw University in Greencastle IN, and my Masters and Doctorate of Musical Arts are from the Ohio State University.

What’s your favorite memory of your career as a student?
Performing new music that I’d never heard before, and discovering new music, such as an old reel-to-reel recording of Mahler’s 10th Symphony in the library, or studying Peter Schat’s “To You” in a 20th century music course.

What are your research or professional interests? What are you working on now?
Recently, my research has been focused on learning to build instruments and continuing to grow as a performer. I’ve built acoustic and electric guitars, ukuleles, amplifiers, and acoustic bass guitars. I’m going to start on a mandolin soon. I continue to practice and hone my art on trumpet, guitar, ukulele, lute, and other instruments. It’s an ongoing challenge to write the arrangements for the Jazz Ensemble to bring out the best of the students’ abilities.

What was your first “big break”?
All the teachers I’ve had throughout the years, and the opportunities I’ve gotten through the schools I attended, such as touring Austria as an undergraduate member of the chamber symphony and performing at the International Jazz Festival in Mexico City with the OSU Jazz Ensemble, and having many students and faculty available to perform my compositions.

What are some of your greatest or most recent professional achievements?
Organizing, writing the arrangements for, and performing in the 20th Anniversary Jazz Ensemble reunion concert was very rewarding. I started the Jazz Ensemble in 1993, when I first came to Rio, and I was very happy to get performers from the very first ensemble, right up to current members to participate in the concert!

Do you have a website?
Yes-my website (acornhouseworkshop) showcases my woodworking projects, including my instrument building.

When did you start teaching at Rio?
Fall of 1993. I teach Music Theory, Jazz and Rock Ensembles, Form and Analysis, Music History, Composition, Arranging, Music Technology.

What is your favorite course to teach at Rio…and why?    
My favorite course is Rock Ensemble, because I get to learn and perform songs I’ve never heard before. The students select songs, and it’s fun to have fresh input and learn new musical styles and songs.

What’s the best part of teaching?
When the student gets it!

What’s the worst?
When a student doesn’t try.

If you could the spend the day with any fine artist, living or dead, who would it be?
Composer, artist, and philosopher John Cage. It would be wonderful to have a chance to try to absorb his sense of discovery, open-ness and wonder.

Favorite book: Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha

Favorite artist: Salvador Dali

Favorite musician: I have no favorites, because I don’t view music as a competition!

Favorite movie: The Horse’s Mouth, with Sir Alec Guinness

Favorite food: Mu Shu Pork

If you could move anywhere, where would you go? Rural Ireland

Favorite quote:”Life without music would be a mistake”-Nietzsche

 

If you couldn’t have a career in the arts, what would you do for a living? Nothing. Been there, done that, don’t want to go back.

What are your hobbies (outside your professional activity)? Woodworking.

Do you share your home with family or pets? I share my home with three cats: Xiao Hu, Thelonious, and Maloof.

What’s the one thing that most people don’t know about you? That would be telling, wouldn’t it?