AUSTIN, Texas—Kent W. Kennan, professor of music emeritus at The University of Texas at Austin and a prominent figure in the composition of American classical music, died Saturday, Nov. 1 here. Services are pending. He was 90.
Kennan’s numerous compositions have been widely performed and published. Best known is “Night Soliloquy,” which in the version for flute and strings has been played by all the major orchestras in the country under distinguished conductors, including Toscanini, Ormandy, Stokowski and Ozawa. It has been recorded under six different labels.
Professor of Music Emeritus Kent W. Kennan was a prominent figure in the composition of American classical music.
Kennan was born in Milwaukee in 1913, and he attended the University of Michigan and the Eastman School of Music. His talent was recognized early, and as a result of winning the Prix de Rome in 1936, he spent three years in Europe, chiefly at the American Academy in Rome. He joined The University of Texas faculty in 1940, left to serve in World War II, taught at Ohio State University for two years, and returned to the university in 1949. He taught counterpoint, orchestration and composition, and published two of the most successful music texts ever written, “Counterpoint,” and, in collaboration with faculty colleague Donald Grantham, “The Technique of Orchestration,” now in its sixth edition.
Kennan also served as graduate adviser and chairman of the School of Music. Although he retired in 1984, Kennan continued to encourage and mentor young composers, meeting with recipients of the Kent Kennan Endowed Graduate Fellowship in Music Composition or Theory, which he endowed and continued to support.
Recognizing his 40 years of devotion to the School of Music, the College of Fine Arts bestowed upon him its highest honor, the E. William Doty Award in May 2001. Named for the founding dean of the College of Fine Arts and chairman of the School of Music, the Doty Award recognizes individuals who have made extraordinary contributions to education, the arts and society, as well as rendered exceptional service to the college and The University of Texas at Austin.
Kennan’s other works in various media have also been widely performed and published and include “Sonata for Trumpet and Piano,” “Three Pieces for Orchestra,” “Threnody” and “Retrospectives,” a set of 12 pieces for piano. His transcriptions for clarinet and piano of sonatas by Prokofiev and Brahms are performed by such leading clarinetists as Richard Stoltzman. In 1992, Kennan donated his manuscripts, published scores, correspondence and scrapbooks chronicling the performance history of his various works to the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at the university.