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Kenneth Kennedy Caswell

Obituary for Kenneth Kennedy Caswell

April 28, 1931 - February 15, 2018
Austin, Texas | Age 86


Kenneth Kennedy Caswell, retired Director of the Austin Symphony Orchestra from 1980-1998, died February 15, 2018. A celebration of his life will be held on Wednesday, February 21st at 3pm at The Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd, Austin, Texas.

Ken was born into the fourth generation of Austin Caswells on April 28, 1931. Ken's passion for music began at age five. Given fifty cents by his favorite Aunt Nen, his largesse was spent entirely on discarded nickel records stored in a barrel at the old Reed Music Company on Congress Avenue. Raised in Austin, he graduated from Austin High School then earned a B.S. in Geology from UT, where he was a member of Kappa Alpha Fraternity. He served as a 2nd lieutenant in the Air Force following the Korean Conflict. Two years in Okinawa afforded him the opportunity to travel throughout the Far East.

Discontented after a decade of employment as a geologist, Ken mentioned to his parents he really wanted to work in the music industry. He credited his stepfather, Fred Sharp, with encouraging him to pursue his passion, as his mother Skete added he would probably starve.

Beginning as Ticket Manager with the Houston Symphony, he progressed to Assistant Director. Subsequent career moves included Director of the San Diego Opera, Memphis Opera, then the San Antonio Symphony. Ken said his happiest years were his return to Austin as the seventeen year Director of the Austin Symphony. He always credited Jane Sibley for his success there. As an art manager, he worked and became friends with many of the great musicians of his time including Sir John Barbirolli, Sir Charles Makerras, Dame Joan Sutherland, Beverly Sills and Van Cliburn.

Always jovial and optimistic, Ken's was a lively personality. An animal lover, many dogs and stray cats found their way to his Lake Austin home for adoption, including Max the Katrina rescue dog, and Little Bit, a kitten retrieved from the grease barrel at Westwood Country Club. He nightly fed the wildlife on his property, including squirrels, raccoons, foxes, opossums, and even a pair of skunks. His family fondly remembers his witty sayings and love of telephone conversations, including connecting with music colleagues throughout the world. Smiling, forgetful of names, he addressed all ladies as "Madame Gazonge", and gentlemen as "Charlie Dean Hassenpfeffer"-including the visiting clergy at Brookdale.

In retirement Ken Caswell devoted much of his energy to transferring the reproducing piano rolls of the great pianists and composers of the past, including Scriabin, Debussy, Ravel, and Granados. He produced a dozen CD releases which were praised in all of the major classical music review journals and newspapers like the New York and Los Angeles Times. His work became source material for many books, articles and dissertations. In addition to his work with classical music, he had a great love for dance music of the 20's and 30's and produced several discs devoted to vintage reproducing piano roll recordings of that era. Copies of his recordings can be found in every major music library in the country.

Ken had many dedicated friends, particularly Peter Barlin, a close friend for 45 years. Karl and Sandra Miller were very instrumental in the production of his CD releases. Friends throughout the United States and Great Britain assisted him in locating rare reproducing piano rolls.

Ken is survived by his sister Claire Cunningham. In his later years, his nieces, nephews and their spouses were so helpful: Kennedy and John Neff, Kelly and Beth Cunningham, Alison and Charlie Quisenberry, and Mike and Becky Cunningham. He was predeceased by his mother Skete Sharp, his stepfather Fred Sharp, his father Kenneth Kennedy Caswell, and his brother-in-law Arthur Cunningham. The name Kennedy has been carried on in the next three generations.

Praise Him with trumpet sound. Praise Him with harp and lyre. Praise Him with timbrel and dancing. Praise Him with stringed instruments and pipe. Praise Him with loud cymbals... Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!
Psalm 150:3-6

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Austin, TX 78705
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