Family and Friends of Roger P. Fenn - Chapman Legacy Society
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Gifts Established:

  • Roger P. Fenn Memorial Scholarship in Instrumental Music Endowment Fund | Est. 1982
brick engraved with name Family and Friends of Roger P. Fenn

Family and Friends of Roger P. Fenn

Roger Fenn’s lifelong musical career began with a trade: a pair of rabbits for a mangled cornet. Roger and his brother, Arthur, had to retrieve part of the cornet from the city dump and solder it back together in their father’s tin shop. They made this momentous trade with a neighbor boy in their hometown of Cordell, Oklahoma.

A few years later, the Fenn family moved to Norman so the four children, Lucy, Arthur, Roger, and Bill, could attend The University of Oklahoma. Roger graduated from Norman High School in 1923, and he had already gained a reputation as “the man with the horn.” Patrons of Oklahoma City’s Orpheum Theatre could hear Roger play for the silent movies. While at OU, he played for the orchestra and the band, which he directed at different times. He also directed the ROTC Band, and he studied conducting and trumpet. He graduated in 1929 with a BFA and later returned to OU to attain his MMEd in 1944.

Roger Fenn’s musical career spanned over 55 years and brought him a rewarding career that would take him to several public-school systems and universities. At The University of Tulsa, he served as Director and then Professor of Instrumental Music for 17 years (1939-56). He spent the remainder of his teaching years with the Tulsa Public Schools until his retirement in 1970. His success in teaching, particularly trumpet and other brass instruments, continued through 1981.

Mr. Fenn played first trumpet with the Oklahoma City Symphony and directed, or played trumpet, in Tulsa orchestras from 1929 until 1965. He also took time to direct choirs in various churches, including East Side Christian Church, where he was a member and elder.

But for Roger Fenn, music was more than a job. He was a major influence in promoting the love of music through his involvement in the joint Kappa Kappa Psi and Tau Beta Sigma National Intercollegiate Band project. He also served as an adjudicator for numerous district, state, and regional music contests. He even served as a judge for the Sixth Annual National School Band Contest in 1931, which drew nationally known band and orchestra directors to Tulsa, including John Philip Sousa.

In 1927, Roger Fenn married Alice McGee, also an OU music student, who worked as a secretary to OU’s dean of education. Alice, who shared Roger’s love of music, completed her bachelor’s degree in 1939 at Southwestern State College and was board certified as an instrumental and vocal music instructor. Roger and Alice Fenn had four children: Joan (Teague), Rod, Mary Ellen (Whiteford), and Duane.

The year Alice completed her degree, Roger became the band and orchestra director at TU. She joined him on campus and had the distinction of serving as secretary and executive assistant to four TU presidents over 33 years – C.I. Pontius, Eugene Swearingen, Ben Henneke, and Pascal Twyman. In 1964, the Fenns were jointly honored as TU’s Mr. and Mrs. Homecoming.

Roger Fenn passed away June 20, 1982, at the age of 78. Alice Fenn died July 8, 2006, just weeks away from her 101st birthday.

Roger and Alice Fenn’s love of music did not stop with their generation. Their daughter Joan began piano lessons at age 6, played clarinet in her father’s high school band starting in fifth grade, took up flute in junior high, and was drafted into her father’s chancel church choir at age 16. While attending TU, she played in both band and orchestra, sang in the TU Choir, and met music major and future husband Rex Teague (BME ’52, MTA ’62). Mr. Teague then followed in his mentor/father-in-law’s footsteps to become a public-school music teacher and was Vocal Music Director at Tulsa Central High School for 25 years. He also was a part-time church choir director for 52 years, and Joan was always his standby pianist-accompanist.

James R. “Rod” Fenn (BME ’53) started playing trumpet at age 6 under his father’s guidance. While attending The University of Tulsa, he played in the Sound of the Golden Hurricane marching band and in the orchestra, and in the Tulsa Philharmonic Orchestra, where he advanced to principal trumpet in his junior and senior years. He played in other professional music organizations during those years, as well. Rod was enrolled in ROTC at TU, and he served as Commander and Leader of the ROTC Band. Upon graduating with a BME degree, he went immediately into the US Air Force. On orders of the Commanding General at Ardmore AFB, Rod was made Commander of the Base “Volunteer” Band. After his honorable discharge as a captain from the Air Force, Rod enjoyed a long career as a commercial pilot.

Fenn daughter Mary Ellen started violin lessons at 6 years of age, participated in her schools’ orchestras and served as concert master of the Oklahoma All-State Orchestra. She started playing in the TU orchestra when she was in junior high school. She studied violin two summer semesters at Colorado College, Colorado Springs, and returned to The University of Tulsa to study music education. She began playing in the Tulsa Philharmonic Orchestra while still in high school and continued with them for a total of 32 years. She enjoyed teaching private violin lessons for 56 years.

Duane Fenn (BS ’67) also followed his father’s legacy, starting trumpet in the fourth grade, and was teaching up to 24 trumpet pupils by the time he finished high school. He played in the Tulsa Philharmonic Orchestra while attending TU, and was in ROTC, graduating with an Engineering Physics degree. He, too, went directly into the US Air Force. Since that time, in addition to regular full-time employment, he has followed his love of music by directing church choirs and by participating in and directing barbershop choruses and quartets.

Friends and family members whose lives were touched by Roger Fenn honored his memory in 1984 by creating and supporting the Roger P. Fenn Memorial Scholarship. Several of his former students were instrumental in creating the scholarship. Roger’s daughters, Mary Ellen Whiteford and Joan Teague, generously reaffirmed that scholarship fund in 2002 as the Roger P. Fenn Memorial Scholarship in Instrumental Music Endowment Fund. This fund provides one scholarship each academic year to an outstanding senior majoring in music education and specializing in instrumental music.

The University of Tulsa and its School of Music are grateful to Roger and Alice Fenn’s children for their continued support of TU, where their parents helped influence a generation of musicians while participating in the University’s growth and progress. The Fenns were not only Mr. and Mrs. Homecoming, but also an important part of the TU family. Their impressive legacies will be sustained in perpetuity by Roger P. Fenn Scholars.