The Music of Drew Fennell

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Drew Fennell
arranger, composer, conductor, teacher, trumpeter

Drew Fennell joined the River City Brass in 1998 as Assistant Principal Solo Cornet, and currently occupies the position of Principal Solo Flugelhorn. He solos very frequently with the ensemble, both as a flugelhorn/trumpet player and as a singer. He also worked as Associate Conductor of the ensemble for ten years, and has conducted the River City Youth Brass Band since 2005. He further performs with the River City 6, serves as Wind Ensemble Conductor and Trumpet Instructor at the Carnegie Mellon Summer Pre-College, and is Professor of Applied Trumpet at Grove City College (PA).

A 1994 graduate of Carnegie Mellon University, he studied with the inimitable Anthony Pasquarelli. Fennell performed extensively during this time, including several solo appearances with the Carnegie Mellon Philharmonic. Listen to a live performance (from 1994) of the Hadyn Concerto for Trumpet and Orchestra here: mvt. 1, mvt. 2, mvt. 3. After receiving his degree, he served as Principal Trumpet with the Butler, Altoona and Youngstown Symphonies, as well as a six-month appointment to the position of Second Trumpet with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. Additionally, his solo playing has been heard locally and internationally in recital, and on International Public Radio.

In addition to playing, he has built a solid reputation as a fine composer and arranger, and his works have been performed around the world. He has completed well over one-hundred projects for the River City Brass (formerly River City Brass Band), a dozen of which appear on various RCB recordings. He also created arrangements for numerous other groups, such as the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, the Wheeling Symphony Orchestra, the Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh Concert Chorale. His original compositions have been equally successful. As part of its Twentieth Anniversary Celebration, River City Brass Band commissioned Drew Fennell to compose a new piece for the band. Hometown Miniatures, an evocative musical depiction of life in a small town, has met with universally positive reviews, and is finding its way onto recommended repertoire lists for college and high school bands around the United States and beyond; this includes performances by the United States Army Band ("Pershing's Own") in Washington D.C. Among other works of his, it can be heard on the River City Brass Band's Polished Brass (2002), and a 2007 recording by the New England Brass Band. In 2003, he was commissioned, by Matthew Murchison, to compose a solo piece for euphonium and piano. After being premiered by Matthew and the RCBB in a version for euphonium and brass band, Prescott Poem was recorded by Mr. Murchison and released on the album Everyone But Me. More recently, he composed a three-movement Concerto (in honor of Anthony Pasquarelli) for solo trumpet and orchestra. He conducted the premiere in 2004, with the Carnegie Mellon Philharmonic Orchestra, and David Gedris, trumpet soloist. A month later, in November of 2004, RCBB premiered The Oval Office which features narration (created by Denis Colwell and Lanny Frattare) culled from United States Presidential speeches over the last two-hundred years. Lanny Frattare also narrated the performances. On Veterans Day, 2006, Arlington Anthem was premiered by the Enloe High School Band in Raleigh, NC. Yosemite Portrait: El Capitan (so named for the granite rock formation in Yosemite National Park), was premiered by the Wantagh High School Wind Ensemble (NY) in December, 2007. Premiered in May, 2008, The Very Depths of Me is his first foray into choral music. It was commissioned by the Fox Chapel Area High School Madrigal Singers, Craig G. Cannon, Director. Song of Autumn (commissioned as part of the celebration of Pittsburgh's 250th Anniversary) premiered in performances by the River City Brass Band in October and November of 2008. The Butler Symphony Orchestra named Drew Fennell Composer of the Year for its 2008-09 60th Anniversary Season. The orchestra featured several existing works (Fanfare and Theme, 'Twas the Night Before Christmas and Hometown Miniatures) as well as a new work entitled Apollo 11, which premiered on April 25, 2009. In 2011, a piece entitled Letters From Home had it's premiere with the Kittanning Firemen's Band at the National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. The piece celebrates and remembers those who fought in WWII using actual letters to and from veterans of the war. New in 2012 is Lux Aeternam (Light Eternal), written for the Pine-Richland High School (PA) Wind Ensemble.

Fennell is also in demand as a conductor. In addition to many performances with the River City Brass Band and his work with the River City Youth Brass Band, he has been guest conductor at high school honors bands in Pennsylvania and New York, and was engaged to conduct the Salt River Brass for performances in 2004.

Fennell self-produced two recordings. La Réjouissance, (from 1999) features trumpet and organ works from the Baroque Era; it is a joint venture with good friend David Gedris. In 2001, he arranged, composed and conducted all the music for his wedding, which he recorded on a compact disc entitled My Whole Heart.

In 2004, along with his wife, Krista, he founded the Trinity Concert Series, a successful recital series, held in their church, Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, in Freeport, PA. To date, over twenty free concerts have been presented. 2013 will mark the ninth anniversary of the recital series.

Additionally, he works as producer and editing consultant for various recording projects.

Drew is a 2006 inductee into the Ford City (PA) Area Hall of Fame.

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Performed with these noteworthy artists:

Lanny Frattare
Joel Grey
Sean Jones
Joe Negri
Doc Severinsen
Pat Sheridan
Patrick Stewart
Manhattan Transfer
The Temptations

Performed under the baton of these noteworthy conductors:

Herbert Blomstedt
James Conlon
Marvin Hamlisch
Mariss Jansons
Lorin Maazel
Sir Neville Mariner
André Previn

Some random factoids (Did you know?...):

  • Drew plays Bach Stradivarus Trumpets (Bb, C, Ed/D), a Stomvi Elite PiccoloTrumpet (Bb, A), a Kanstul Flugelhorn, a Getzen Eterna Cornet (Bb), and a Besson Cornet (Eb).
  • Drew had a chance to meet his childhood hero, Franco Harris - and he chickened out. Wimp.
  • When he first got his trumpet, he could not wait for his first lesson, so he learned to play along with Spike Jones' version of Cocktails for Two...a performance to remember.
  • Drew's entire family is musical. His aunts and his mother were recorded in the 1950s singing (in the style of the Andrews Sisters) at a local radio station. His talented brother Dirk is a songwriter (here's an example of his work: American Hero), and his nephew, Kelly is a gifted music theater student at the University of Oklahama.
  • Drew has played for well over twenty years with an amateur band, the Kittanning Firemen's Band and proudly performs with the group every summer, taking part in a tradition which is still going strong after sixty years.
  • Drew's first public solo performance was a disaster. He was to sing Jesus Loves the Little Children at a local hymn sing, but he got stage fright and never made a sound. By the age of 37, he had overcome his fears.
  • Drew's Top Five Favorite Movies are: "It's a Wonderful Life," "Forrest Gump," "The Shawshank Redemption," the "Star Wars" series and the "Lord of the Rings" series. (Yes, because there are six "Star Wars" movies and three "Lord of the Rings" movies, that makes the total number twelve. Don't be a stickler.)
  • Drew's first solo performance on the trumpet was a simplified version of Haydn's "Concerto" for Trumpet which he performed at his sixth grade band concert. Listen here...if you dare.
  • Performing rights for Drew Fennell's original works are administered by BMI Classical.
    All other rights are held by the composer.

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