Kay Stonefelt is a State University of New York Distinguished Professor and Chair of Percussion Studies in the School of Music at Fredonia. In 2016, she received the PAS Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence in Education. She is also a recipient of the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching and the School of Music Poummit Faculty Recognition Award. Prior to teaching at Fredonia, Kay was the recipient of a Fulbright Senior Scholar Research Grant to Ghana, West Africa (1993–94), and upon completion of her research year she actively joined the School of Music. She has performed with orchestral ensembles throughout the United States and Europe, and for many years built a reputation in New York City as a Broadway show, studio, and cabaret musician, as well as participating in major avant-garde premieres and performances. In addition to a busy teaching schedule, Kay is timpanist with the Western New York Chamber Orchestra and percussionist with the Presque Isle Pro Musica.
Rhythm! Scene: If you weren't a university percussion professor, what career could you see yourself having pursued?
Kay Stonefelt: I think I would have been—I think I am—a successful “business” person. I am interested in creating projects and bringing them to fruition. So it could be any product or venture where I don't have to sit at a desk from 9 to 5 doing some repetitive task. But over my lifetime, each time I tried to venture out of the realm of music… nope, I am a musician, whatever that means to the task at hand.
R!S: What's one thing in your institution or city/town (other than your school of music or music department) that you are proud to tell people about?
KS: The Village of Fredonia is a very unique place. It boasts having the first Grange in the country, the first village to have gaslit street lamps, and the founding of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (W.C.T.U.) in December 1873. The college campus is beautiful, with walkways and paths, flowers in spring, summer, and fall, and a stimulating and congenial faculty across the entire campus. And, of course, there is that famous Marx Brothers movie Duck Soup.
R!S: What's one thing about you that your students would unanimously proclaim?
KS: They say I'm tough; I think I'm flexible and understanding. But I support all of them through thick and thin, and they know it!
R!S: What is your favorite percussion instrument and why?
KS: I started on snare drum in middle school; I love the snare drum and I own too many snare drums! Then again, I guess it depends on what month or year or mood I'm in as to the favorite of the moment. I love all percussion, mallets, and timpani; aren't we lucky to have these options?
R!S: Where did you grow up, and what’s one interesting thing about your childhood (musically or otherwise)?
KS: I grew up in Dunellen, New Jersey. We had two great music teachers: Mr. Robert Kellogg (instrumental) and Miss Ruth Fischer (choral). The band room always had jazz playing, especially Stan Kenton, Monk, and Mingus. Miss Fischer bought series tickets to the Metropolitan Opera and shared them with us. We took the train to New York City and went to the Met, all on our own!