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Arts Ambassador of the Month - April 2019

Written By Jim T. Gammill
Arts Council Menifee

Dr. Steve Kennedy has been an educator for many years and has been such an outstanding advocate for the arts in schools throughout the Menifee Union School District. He has made it one of his life’s missions to ensure that the arts always have a place in local schools and has been pivotal in the development and support of local organizations and programs.

Kennedy’s passion for the arts started at an early age. Even as a toddler, Dr. Kennedy, remembers being drawn to music and song.

“I would sit on my Grandfather’s lap after he taught me the words to the “Easter Bonnet” song around the age of three. I recall fondly how grandpa would get such a kick propping me up on the coffee table and asking me to sing for everyone,” Dr. Kennedy remembers.

Steve’s passion for music and the arts would continue to be very formative and driving force in his young life. At the age of nine, Kennedy became part of the U.S. Children’s Choir and was able to tour around the world. It was in his youth that Kennedy also began singing in the church choir, a joyous task that he continued to do well into his adulthood. The St. John of the Cross Church in Lemon Grove, California is a massive center of worship that is home to over 6000 families and for the past 30 years, the voice of Dr. Steve Kennedy helped to fill its walls every Sunday at two separate services.

After high school, Kennedy applied to the USC School of Music and was asked to perform something classical as the school is known as the “Juilliard of the West” and centered on operatic style singing. While Steve was familiar with sacred and the contemporary music of the time, when asked by the prestigious panel to perform something classical, he was able to call upon his church experiences to perform Franz Schubert’s “Ave Maria” as something of a hail mary. The song, which he had learned in church was just about the only thing that he knew from the classical genre and he was spot on! In large part due to this performance, he was accepted into the prestigious School of Music at the University of Southern California.

Upon graduation, Kennedy took a job as a financial planner and soon learned that his older clientele had problems taking financial advice from someone so young. As his parents were both teachers, they encouraged Steve to give a career in education a chance. Kennedy worked for a summer as a teacher’s assistant for his mother’s third grade class and never looked back. He soon went back to school and received his Master’s degree in educational leadership from National University.

Embracing his fine-arts background, Steve Kennedy began his teaching career in earnest at Kellogg Elementary, a visual and performing arts magnet school in Chula Vista. The school’s programs were so renowned that Kennedy was a part of a team called upon to speak to congress about the benefits the arts have on a child’s overall education. This addressed a popular proposal at the time of cutting arts funding from educational programs nationwide.

For the next thirty something years, Kennedy advanced his educational career by taking a principal position in Bonsall. It was at this time that Kennedy accepted a call to consider joining the Menifee Union School District. An avid learner, he continued his education and earned his Doctorate in Educational Leadership from Argosy University. He eventually became the superintendent of Menifee Union School District, in 2013.

While most of his staff and contemporaries were not aware of his musical background, Kennedy was invited to participate in a charity event to raise funds for The Community Cupboard.

“I performed The Impossible Dream from the wonderful musical, The Man from La Mancha and when I finished the song, I peered out into the crowd and saw surprised expressions and more than a few open mouths. I surmised the folks weren’t expecting that.”

Dr. Kennedy has been an avid supporter of Arts Council Menifee since coming to the area and currently is the immediate past president of The Rotary Club of Menifee. Dr. Kennedy is also a founding board member of The Boys and Girls Club of Menifee, an organization that he still devotes much of his time and energy to. His advocacy for the arts is also very visible in many of the programs that the organization offers today.

It is for this and many other reasons that Arts Council Menifee is proud to name Dr. Steve Kennedy as April’s Artist and Arts Ambassador of the month.

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