Some 1,100 student musicians — plus an almost equal number of parents, accompanists and judges — from eight schools made their way to the Perry High School gymnasium Saturday for the 36th annual Perry Band Olympics, known statewide as the Super Bowl of solo and ensemble musical contests.
Missing from the controlled pandemonium for the first time was the event’s founding in 1984 was Jerry Kinney, who died Wednesday after a brief illness. Kinney was 88 and spent the previous 67 years teaching instrumental music at a dozen schools around Iowa. He “retired” just this fall as the part-time band instructor at Sacred Heart School in West Des Moines.
Kinney founded the Perry Band Olympics in 1984 and even after leaving Perry was for many years a judge at the annual contest, where he could always be seen is his trademark red cardigan.
“I feel sad,” said longtime Perry High School Instrumental Music Director Steve Cook, who helped at Saturday’s event for the 33rd year running. “Every year, Jerry would be sitting in the cafeteria with his red sweater on, and I would be walking through and saying hi to him every time, but that’s not happening this year.”
Kinney was a dynamic force among Iowa bandmasters. He received the Outstanding Music Educator in Iowa Award in 2006 from the National Federation of High Schools and was a longtime member and frequent officer in the Iowa Bandmasters Association and South Central Iowa Bandmasters Association. He served two terms on Iowa Gov. Robert D. Ray’s Commission of Youth and was twice named to the district advisory board of the Iowa High School Music Association.
“He meant a lot to everybody,” Cook said. “It’s quite a loss for the band director community in the state of Iowa. He was just an amazing man. He lived band.”
Happily, a plaque was presented to Kinney at the close of the 2019 Perry Band Olympics awards ceremony in special recognition of his founding of the annual event.
Much of the behind-the-scenes work done before and during the Band Olympics is carried out by Kari Allen, in her 28th year of assisting in the coordination, and by 24-year veterans Brent Allen and Michelle Fagen. All three are former PHS band members who lamented the loss of Kinney.
“It’s amazing how many groups he was involved in and the number of kids he had as students,” Kari Allen said. “He was my judge when I was in the Olympics here.”
Music critic Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim has said that “silence makes the music,” with the beauty and the meaning of music inhering in the interplay of sound and silence. Kinney has now attained his measure of rest.