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Stan Kenton

Stan Kenton

Musician, band leader. Born: December 15, 1911, Wichita, Kansas. Died: August 25, 1979, Los Angeles, California.

A biography of Stan Kenton begins by describing the musician as follows: "Pianist, Arranger, Composer, Conductor, Leader, Administrator, Educator, Philosopher, Innovator, Humanitarian—Kenton was a 20th century renaissance man." He was all of these and more to many people.

Born December 15, 1911, in Wichita, Kansas, Kenton left the state with his family when he was six weeks old. Although he spent little time in Kansas, he still considered it his home state and Wichita his hometown. Many times he returned to Wichita to perform and he always received a hometown reception.

Kenton was unique in several ways. As an artist he was never satisfied to remain within the defined limits of the type of music he was performing. He was quoted in a newspaper interview as stating, "No art form lasts for an eternity. The moment of creation is the most potent time; then it diminishes until it finally has no meaning for the society around it." With this as his philosophy of music, Kenton was a constant target of music critics that attacked his compositions because they did not conform to the status quo. He paid little attention to his critics or the rules he was supposed to follow.

Perhaps the most unique part of Kenton's personality was his innovativeness. In another newspaper interview he commented, "I have a problem with myself. I'm just not much for the past. When guys come around to talk about the good old days, I'm not much interested. I'm more concerned with what's happening next." His innovations included pioneering the form of jazz called, "Third Stream," which is a blending of American jazz with European classical music. In the 1960s he experimented with a band featuring the mellophonium, which was a cross between a trumpet and a trombone. Later in the decade he established the Neophonic Orchestra, which was the first permanently established orchestra in the world devoted to contemporary music. He also made a habit of conducting clinics at universities. The clinics were his way of teaching young people his art and also ensuring that his brand of music would not die. Kenton died in California on August 25, 1979, but his music survives.

Entry: Kenton, Stan

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: December 2004

Date Modified: December 2012

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.