Kennedy teaches importance of music through experience

by MATT MOLINAR/Opinion Editor

If there is something you like doing, don’t stop doing it.

Dr. John Kennedy, associate professor of fine arts, has been working at South Plains College in the Fine Arts Department for five years. Every year he has been dedicated to showing students what music is about and how it can improve their standard of living.

Kennedy grew up in a military family. He was born in Alabama but spent his earliest years in Germany.

“We lived in many places, and my mother insisted that we go to school on what we call the ‘economy,’” Kennedy explains. “From preschool to about fifth or sixth grade, I went to German schools. That’s when the music started.”

Kennedy says that he discovered his interest in music through his German teacher, Frau Stein. Through her, Kennedy says, he learned about the art of music, as well as different styles of music.

“The only English words she knew were ‘boy’ and ‘you dumb,’” says Kennedy. “She used those to address me regularly. But through her, I learned about the symphony and classical music, and German music.”

Kennedy says that through his father, he was introduced to popular music, such as Ray Charles, the Beatles and Little Richard.

“I saw the Beatles before they were the Beatles,” explained Kennedy. “I saw them in Hamburg. I also saw the Rolling Stones. I got to see the world of Rock n’ roll from the beginning. One of my mother’s dear friends was Hank Williams before he was a star. My mom and dad both loved music, so it was very natural that I was exposed to it.”

When Kennedy returned to the United States, he began playing the trombone. However, due to physical limitations, he was introduced to the trumpet and has been playing ever since.

“I started playing trombone, but I couldn’t reach the positions because I was very small,” Kennedy said. “My band director, who was a very nice guy, suggested I play the trumpet. Ever since then, one thing led to another, and I went to school and was a four-year all-stater.”

Once Kennedy graduated from high school, he decided that music wasn’t for him. He says he didn’t want to play anymore. He sold his instruments and attended college as an economics major, with a minor in math.

Teacher Feature
Dr. Kennedy doesn’t plan on leaving SPC anytime soon. MATT MOLINAR/PLAINSMAN PRESS

“It was my goal to get very very rich, retire when I was 40 and buy an island,” explains Kennedy. “I hated it. Five years later, I quit and I decided I was going to go back to school for music. The rest is history.”

Kennedy says that he was very musically fortunate through teaching opportunies. He says that in the middle of teaching, he performed while traveling with groups.

“I finally came back off the road and met my wife,” Kennedy says. “She was a band director. We both agreed that life on the road probably wasn’t the best setting to raise children in. So I went back to teaching for an offer I couldn’t refuse in Memphis.”

Kennedy had been teaching trumpet since then and was offered a job at SPC, where his friend from stage shows, Dr. Bruce Keeling, former professor of music at SPC, taught.

“It has been so much fun,” says Kennedy. “The positions I’ve had here have just evolved into more positions, and I love being here. At a university, you watch students grow over four years. Here, you’re thrown into overdrive. I get these kids for two years, and we teach and teach to get the strongest foundation out of them. I don’t see myself leaving anytime soon, and I’m definitely not slowing down now.”

Kennedy says that his advise to students is if there is anything you love doing, do it.

“Don’t stop,” he adds. “Don’t give up your playing. Keep doing it. Even if it isn’t something you want to do for a living, do it. It may not be that important, but it will definitely improve your standard of living.”

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