“Don’t teach music to people, teach people through music.”
East dad and choir director, Ken Foley, has always been around music. At the age of four, he started playing the trumpet. From fifth to 12th grade, Foley had his father as a band director. Music runs in Foley’s family, his father majored in the trumpet, and his mother majored in piano and voice.
After graduating from Chagrin Falls High School, Foley received scholarships for music as well as soccer to attend the University of Cincinnati, where he graduated with a music major in choral studies. Foley moved with his new wife, Heather, to Kansas City in 1995 where he got his masters in choral conducting at UMKC. Before graduating, Foley got a job at Pembroke Hill as a choir director, where he stayed for 12 years.
“[Pembroke] was a great school,” Foley said. “The kids were driven and had high expectations set for themselves.”
But when a job opened up at East, it was an opportunity he couldn’t pass up.
“The East choir job was the best one in town and so when it became open I couldn’t not look at it,” Foley said. “I have 405 kids now and that’s how many there were in the entire high school at Pembroke.”
After seven years at East he now has his daughter, junior Bria Foley, in the Chambers Choir, the only choir that requires an audition. Once Bria graduates in 2017, Foley’s other daughter, Jillian, now a seventh grader at Indian Hills, will start at East as a freshmen. She plans to join choir as well.
“It’s so fun [having Bria in my class]. I hope she enjoys being in my class as much as I enjoy having her because it’s just a thrill,” Foley said. “When she made the chamber choir that might have been the highlight of my career, to be able to put her name on that list, and obviously she wouldn’t be on there if she didn’t deserve it.”
The relationships that can be built after having a student four years in a row is one of Foley’s favorite parts of the job. By the time that students are seniors, strong relationships have been built, so leaving for college is hard to both students and Foley. At every spring concert, the seniors in Chambers Choir sing to Foley in front of the entire audience.
“You get pretty attached,” Foley said, “and so as the seniors are getting ready to leave, you’ve watched them literally grow up in front of you, from freshmen, who are unsure, to confident, adult, seniors leaving, so it’s hard.”
Foley is not involved in any choirs outside of East and hasn’t been since his daughters were born, although he was apart of the KC Corrals for years.
“I like having my back to the audience instead of my front these days,” he said.