History of Kent State’s Fight Song
Edmund Siennicki, '46, began playing and creating musical arrangements in elementary school. At age 82, he has yet to stop.
"My parents had a hard time getting me to practice," Siennicki said.
Faced with practicing the piano while your friends play ball outside would hardly be appealing to most children. Yet, a transformation happened around age 13; the day he sat down at the piano and improvised in D minor. That day he felt his juices flowing, which became the jumpstart to a lifetime love affair with music.
In 1939, he enrolled in Kent State to study music education, where he played the piano and bassoon. He arrived in Kent with $95 - enough to buy books, and pay for two weeks of room and board. He paid his way through school by playing the piano at country clubs, nightclubs and churches.
Without a car, he relied on whatever means necessary to perform and continue his studies. "I hitchhiked to Cleveland to play a job and hitchhiked back," he said.
It was during an orchestration class that Siennicki created his Kent State musical legacy. His professor, Roy Metcalf, asked him to write a song the band could play for Kent State. Siennicki remembers Metcalf saying, "'If you write it, we'll play it once. If we like it, we'll play it again.'"
That song, "Fight On For KSU," which was played again and again, was adopted as the university's fight song. Freshmen hear the rhythm and beat of Siennicki's music for the first time at convocation. The marching band unleashes it as the Golden Flashes approach the playing field, and whenever the team scores, making it the band's most-played song.
Siennicki heeded the call to serve his country in World War II, but returned to his musical roots, and received a bachelor's degree. After earning a master's in music education at Columbia University, he taught music for one year in Michigan and more than 30 years at the junior-high level in the Cleveland schools.
Siennicki not only directed student musicians, he also provided guidance for one promising comedian. He recalls telling that jokester in his homeroom, "anyone who can make people laugh has a wonderful talent and that person should be encouraged." He also warned him that a good comedian never throws out a joke, but holds on to it.
"This kid never threw a joke away," he said, because "later I saw him on Johnny Carson." The budding comedian was none other than Kent State's own Drew Carey.
Surrounded by junior-high crushes and pulsating hormones, Siennicki blossomed as a composer. He has written and published more than 200 compositions for bands and orchestras for schools and colleges. His secret for composing is simple. "I know what they need in public schools," he said.
Simplicity hardly seems an apt description of composing music, but Siennicki sees it differently. "Music is a language," he said. "In the time of Beethoven, they all improvised." Sadly, music teachers seem to have forgotten the source of music's power, improvisation.
"Printed notes are not sacred, (they) are a road map, but it's the interpreter who decides how fast to go."
With a lifetime of success and numerous awards and recognitions, Siennicki remains remarkably humble."I've been very fortunate," he said, citing the help that friends have provided him. His enthusiasm for music seems as boundless the notes he writes. His "Fight On for KSU" continues to rouse cheering Kent State fans every year. And his songs dare countless others to find musical bliss.
- Laura Morello-Simonitis