Wes Kenney

The 2007 Grand Prize Winner of the Varna (Bulgaria) International Conducting Competition, a multiple winner of the Ernst Bacon Memorial Prize for excellence in performance of American Music, an American Prize winner for best orchestral performance in the Youth Orchestra Division, and a finalist for the American Prize for Orchestral performance at the professional orchestra level based on a Fort Collins Symphony performance of the Shostakovich Symphony No. 9, Wes Kenney is celebrating his 19th season as Music Director of that orchestra and Director of Orchestras at Colorado State University. Maestro Kenney was recently selected as Honored Artist of the American Prize National Nonprofit Competitions in the Performing Arts.

During the pandemic, Mr. Kenney and the Fort Collins Symphony performed the only live concert on July 4, 2020 in the United States, and then kept the FCS musicians playing with streamed concerts throughout the 2020-2021 season.

In addition, Mr. Kenney is in his ninth season as music director with Denver Young Artist Orchestra, Colorado’s premier youth orchestra.  This orchestra has been recognized by the City of Denver for outreach and with the 2017 and 2019 Ernst Bacon Memorial prize for the performance of contemporary music from the American Prize competition.  He has led that orchestra on two European tours and anchored two festivals at Carnegie Hall.

From 2004 to 2020, Kenney served as Music Director for Opera Fort Collins. Each season, he conducts numerous professional operatic productions, orchestra concerts, and dance performances throughout Northern Colorado. Mr. Kenney’s guest conducting activities include Louisiana’s Acadiana Symphony, Alabama Symphony, Alabama All-State Orchestra, Buffalo Philharmonic, Colorado Symphony, Dubuque Symphony, Indiana’s Lafayette Symphony, Long Beach Symphony, Minnesota All-State Orchestra, New Mexico Symphony, New Mexico All-State Orchestra (twice), New Hampshire All-State Orchestra, Richmond Symphony, Riverside Symphonia, Savannah Symphony, and the Virginia Symphony.  International guest conducting includes performances with South Korea’s Changwon Philharmonic, Hanoi’s Vietnam National Symphony, Vidin State Philharmonic, and Bulgaria’s Stara Zagora Opera Company, and the Edinburgh Music Festival.

Kenney has also enjoyed success directing opera, ballet and musical theater.  Previous positions include Music Director of the Virginia Ballet Theater, Co-Principal Conductor of the Oakland Lyric Opera, and Guest Conductor with Universal Ballet Korea.  Since 2004 he has conducted productions of Carmen, Amahl and the Night Visitors, Sweeney Todd, Turn of the Screw, Barber of Seville, Madama Butterfly, Cenerentola, Rigoletto, Tosca, Otello, Die Zauberflote, Die Fledermaus, La Traviata, Il Trovatore, Street Scene, La Boheme, Orfeo, Pagliacci, Cavelleria Rusticana, Falstaff, Turandot, Marriage of Figaro, Serse, The Merry Widow, Aida, Don Giovanni, and Tenderland.  In addition, he has conducted over one hundred fifty performances of The Nutcracker, Swan Lake, The Firebird, and many other dance works.

In six seasons as the Virginia Symphony’s Associate Conductor, Mr. Kenney appeared more than 350 times with that orchestra where he was responsible for programming and conducting pops, family, and young people’s concerts.  During this tenure, he was invited to guest conduct the Williamsburg Symphonia, Virginia Chorale, Norfolk Chamber Consort, and Virginia Waterfront International Arts Festival.

Named Educator of the Year by the Colorado Chapter of the American String Teachers Association in 2008, Kenney enjoys working with talented young people in his position as Director of Orchestras at Colorado State University.  He has served as Guest Conductor with the Alabama, New Hampshire, New Mexico, and Virginia All-State Orchestras.  He was awarded the prestigious Carmen Dragon Conducting Prize in 1992.  Now in its fifteenth year, Kenney is a founder of the CSU Summer Master of Music Education with an emphasis in conducting program.  In 2013 he was a guest lecturer at the Bard College Conductor’s Institute in upstate New York and taught alongside the late Harold Farberman and American Symphony Orchestra Music Director Leon Botstein.  He is a past president of the Conductors Guild, a 2,000-member service organization to the conducting profession.  Currently, he serves on the Guild’s advisory board.  

Kenney is a graduate of the University of Southern California and San Francisco State University.  Additional studies include three years as a fellow at the Conductors Institute, several American Symphony Orchestra League and Conductors Guild Workshops, and the Sandpoint Festival.  His teachers include Harold Farberman, Hans Beer, Gunther Schuller, Hans Swarovsky, and Miltiardes Carides.