Kenneth Eugene Parsons
Ken Parsons, brass performer and conductor, has taught for nearly thirty years at all levels in the Seventh-day Adventist educational system. He is presently an associate professor at Southern Adventist University, a position he has held since 2000.
Ken was born in Boulder, Colorado, one of three children of Bernie and Sally Rushold Parsons. Both parents had had extensive musical training and were active musicians. He recently wrote,
My mother and her brother were musically active from a very young age, both as vocalists. My mother began playing piano quite early and played and sang as a student at Maplewood Academy, where she often accompanied classmate Orlo Gilbert. She taught piano privately for many years, was organist at our SDA church, a local Episcopal church, and a local funeral home and sang many solos as well as in a ladies' trio.
My father learned piano early, played cornet throughout middle and high school, and played in a trumpet trio for several years. He inspired me to take up the trumpet. We played duets often, always with my mother accompanying. Later, we played trios with my brother Larry on trombone. My sister Kathy played piano and flute. She occasionally accompanied us as well. I started piano lessons in second grade and cornet in fourth grade, switching to trumpet in ninth grade.
Ken took lessons from Frank Baird at the University of Boulder while still in grade school, an experience that gave him a solid technical foundation. He played in the band under Becky Carlisle at Boulder Junior Academy until his family moved to Corvallis, Oregon, when he was fourteen. Due to braces and a very small school band, his interest in the trumpet waned at that time, and he took guitar lessons for two years, an experience he enjoyed, and one that later facilitated learning music theory in college.
He attended Columbia Adventist Academy, where he played in the band and took trumpet lessons from David Grams and James Testerman. Grams started him thinking about possibly pursuing a career in music, and Testerman, a trumpet player, inspired him to pursue trumpet performance, taking him to brass recitals and introducing him to brass ensemble literature.
After graduating from CAA in 1977, Ken enrolled at Walla Walla College, now University, as a theology major, though still very interested in music. He recently wrote about his uncertainty at this time:
Even though I was very interested in music and thought I'd like to be a band director, I didn't think I was a good enough performer to do it. I did feel that God wanted me in some sort of ministry, so I began college as a theology major. I never really "fit in," though. I was in the band and brass choir and taking trumpet lessons and would walk past the theory classroom and almost salivate - I wanted in there so badly. When I mentioned this to one of the theology faculty, he suggested a double major. I didn't need to think twice about that idea!
In 1983 Parsons graduated magna cum laude from WWC with a B.Mus. in music education with trumpet as his performance area, having studied with Lloyd Leno, and a B.A. in theology as well as a minor in speech. He had the distinction of having completed more credit hours than anyone else in his graduating class.
That fall he started teaching at Redlands Junior Academy in California and then left two years later to enroll at the University of Oregon for graduate study. A year later he was invited to teach at Forest Lake Academy, a position he would hold for the next fourteen years. During that time he graduated magna cum Laude with an M.Mus. in brass performance at UO in 1987, having studied trumpet with George Recker, horn with Edward Kammerer, trombone with Jeffrey Williams, and tuba with Jesse Gram.
During those years in Florida he continued short-term study on trumpet with Susan Whitney Ault of the Florida Symphony, Raymond Mase of the Juilliard School of Music, David Hickman at Arizona State University, and others. He also pursued additional conducting study with Jerry Junkin at the University of Texas in Austin, Rodney Winther at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Frank Battisti of the New England Conservatory of Music, and others.
Parsons successfully participated with his FLA concert and jazz bands and brass ensembles in regional and state Florida Bandmaster Association adjudications for nine years and earned superior ratings in all categories with his 75-member concert band in 1999. Additionally, during that same time a significant number of his students received superior adjudication ratings in the FBA festivals as well as music performance scholarships to Southern Adventist University. His band toured to Washington, D.C. twice, in 1988 and 2000, and to Puerto Rico in 1990.
During his time at FLA, Parsons also directed the brass ensemble and taught trumpet at Rollins College in nearby Orlando from 1994 to 1998. Beginning in 1998 he taught extension courses in music appreciation for both SAU and Oakwood College, now University, and established an Enriched Honors in Musical Arts curriculum which had an enrollment of fifty students during his last year at FLA.
In 2000 he accepted leadership of the Wind Symphony and brass ensembles at Southern Adventist University and in the next twelve years expanded the program to include a jazz ensemble that performed in 2003 at the Alumni Awards Foundation ceremony in Scottsdale, Arizona, and toured in southern California in 2006. The Wind Symphony will be touring in the Northwest in the spring of 2013.
In addition to leading these groups and other smaller ensembles and teaching trumpet, he also teaches conducting and music education classes. He is active as a performer and has played extensively on trumpet as a soloist and in ensembles throughout his career.
Parsons is married to Kristi McDonald, a medical technologist, and they have two children, Kris and Kaari, both of whom are active in music.
Sources: Information provided by Kenneth Parsons,2000, 2007 and 2012; Mia Lindsey, “More than Music,” Southern columns, Fall 2012, 11; personal knowledge.