Ford City native pays tribute to former teacher
Ford City native Drew Fennell had never composed a concerto before, but couldn’t turn down an opportunity to say thank you to his former teacher.
Tomorrow night Fennell’s “Concerto for Trumpet and Orchestra” will be aired live at 9:30 p.m. Friday on 89.3 WQED-FM in a special program to honor longtime Carnegie Mellon professor Anthony Pasquarelli. Fennell studied trumpet under Pasquarelli, who has taught at CMU for 47 years.
Fennell will conduct the Carnegie-Mellon Philharmonic Orchestra for the occasion.
“You only get so many chances in your life to thank the people who made you who you are,” said Fennell, who was commissioned by students at CMU to write the piece.
“I have likened the whole experience to the Christmas tune, ‘The Little Drummer Boy’,” he said. “The boy plays his drum for the mere satisfaction of a baby’s smile. After all Mr. Pasquarelli has done for me, I feel so fortunate to have this rare opportunity to play my ‘drum’ for him.”
He said Pasquarelli served not only as a teacher, but as a mentor to many of his students, and the opportunity to give something back is an honor.
“Once I reached Carnegie Mellon, Mr. Pasquarelli really honed my skills, and gave me the tools to be able to make a career in music,” said Fennell, who serves as co-associate director for the River City Brass Band.
“But there is so much more to his teaching and mentorship,” he added. “Most of his students, including me, consider him to be sort of a second father.”
“He teaches a lot about growing up and living in the world, in addition to teaching me the trumpet,” Fennell said. “A few of his students, people who grew up in bad neighborhoods, say to this day that had they not found Mr. Pasquarelli, they very likely would be in jail, or worse.”
Fennell admits that writing a piece of music for someone he admires and respects so much is tough.
“This is, without a doubt, the most difficult challenge I have ever undertaken,” he said. “It is three times longer than any other single piece I’ve composed. It is my first composition for orchestra.”
“But in the end, I believe it will bring the most personal satisfaction of anything I have written in my life thus far,” Fennell added.
Fennell has composed pieces for the Kittanning Firemen’s Band and River City Brass Band, including a piece entitled “Hometown Miniatures,” which was written about Ford City and performed there last year.
This piece was special in its own right for Fennell, because unlike those pieces of music, the concerto was written about a person, one who helped make him what he is.
“(Pasquarelli) just has a way of inspiring people to do better, at trumpet playing, and at life,” he said.
In addition to the radio, the concerto will be aired via streaming internet at WQED Web site, www.wqed.org/fm/.