A Sad Day, The Passing Of Fred Fennell

In the morning of Tuesday, December 7th, 2004 music legend Fred Fennell passed away peacefully in his sleep at the age of 90.  For those who run around exclusively in orchestra circles you may not readily place Fred’s name with his achievements.

His accomplishments are simply too long to list here, but you can find a comprehensive biography at http://www.dws.org/ffennell.htm

Fred had a life long relationship with the Interlochen Center for
the Arts which is where I was fortunate enough to have my path cross
with his.  Not only did I have him as a conductor for a few weeks but I
also had a unique opportunity to get to know him on a very different

During my last summer at Interlochen as a camper I had the privilege
to be assigned as his "go-fer" in connection with my work scholarship
duties and much of that time was spent walking with him, making sure he
arrived where he needed to be on time.  During those many walks I was
able to talk with about whatever subject he was interested in at the
moment which was usually the weather. 

He was fascinated with the weather and it was always a favorite
topic of conversation – I learned more about weather patterns from him
than I ever did in a high school science class. He was 75 then but that
didn’t mean he was slow, I never had to think about slowing down my
walking pace.  He was energetic and fun to talk to and a very different
person than when he took the podium.

I also learned a great deal about the development of Interlochen and
how that history allowed the place to be as special as it was.  He told
me about the dedication and hard work of so many talented individuals
over such long periods of their life and how that created the unique
environment which has produced so much good in the world of music.

It was nice to see a different side to the man than most musicians
or students were exposed to.  Although my concerts with him will remain
etched in my mind forever (there are a couple of really funny moments
there too) I’ll always remember my walks through the woods of
Interlochen with Fred as something special.  I was glad to learn that
he will have his ashes scatted in those very same woods.

Farewell Fred, the world of music was better off after having you pass though it.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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