5 questions with… tech-savvy musician, staff member Ken Wendt

As a musician, Ken Wendt realized the gear surrounding him and his instruments played a critical role in presenting his craft to the world.

Photo of Ken Wendt holding drum sticks

So Wendt, who plays trumpet and drums, immersed himself in a different side of music: the technology supporting it. As he learned more about the tech side, he developed his own home studio and picked up videography and recording skills.

“I wanted to have at least some sort of cursory knowledge of how it works so I can have a hand in how I sound,” he said.

Wendt’s newfound abilities not only shaped his music, but also helped forge a new career path.

When the position for an information technology coordinator in the Department of Music opened in January 2015, Wendt felt the job listing was created with him in mind; it perfectly melded his passion for music and technology.

In that role, Wendt addresses the department’s information technology and audio/video needs and manages the Core Mac Lab, which is open to all Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Institute of Music students, regardless of major. The lab, in Haydn Hall, features 12 27-inch Apple computers suitable for audio and video production and rentable equipment like video cameras, public address speakers and microphones. During the academic year, the free lab is open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Wendt also is as an adjunct faculty member, teaching two classes: Digital Music Production, an elective open to all students, and Technology Assisted Music Learning and Teaching, a required course for music education majors.

His Digital Music Production course is especially popular; Wendt is often inundated with up to 30 requests to fill just 10 seats.

“Students love that class,” he said.

Out of the office

But when he’s not helping others with their musical pursuits, he’s working on his own.

Wendt earned a bachelor’s degree in music education and a master’s degree and Doctor of Musical Arts in Performance, setting and achieving his goal of becoming a professional musician. While in school, a faculty member helped connect him with an opportunity to play in the Broadway tour of South Pacific at the Orpheum Theatre in Memphis. After graduating from his doctoral program in 2010, he spent time performing on Carnival cruises in the Caribbean.

While Wendt’s formal education focused mainly on the trumpet, he’s been playing drums just as long.

Wendt plays drums for two cover bands and with Yoid, an experimental group composed of up to 13 electric guitars. He’s also working on a solo musical project, called Fluent K.

Meanwhile, Wendt continues to be active in production: He launched an audio and video production company called Media 216 and is the audio producer for 7 Minute Stories, a podcast created by his longtime friend Aaron Calafato, who tells short-form narratives relatable to listeners. Their work recently was highlighted on National Public Radio’s Snap Judgment.

“It’s received really well,” he said, “mostly because they’re very simple stories, but they’re told well.”

Listen to recent episodes of 7 Minute Stories, but first, get to know Wendt more in this week’s five questions.

1. What’s next on your reading list?

I very rarely have just one book. I’m not a big fiction person, so it’s usually non-fiction. I usually have something practical that is related to what I’m doing to improve some type of skillset. That would be Guerrilla Film Scoring by Jeremy Borum, checked out from our very own [Kulas] Music Library on the first floor [of Haydn Hall]. The other book is The Ra Contact [by Don Elkins, Carla Rueckert and Jim McCarty].

2. Do you consider yourself an early bird or a night owl?

Definitely a night owl, without hesitation.

3. What is one thing people would be surprised to learn about you?

I think one of the more obscure things is that I had the honor and privilege to preside over two weddings as an ordained priest in the Church of the Latter Day Dude.

4. What do you think is the most beautiful spot in Cleveland?

I am partial to wide-open spaces and fields, which we don’t have too many of here. But second to that, I really like places that are higher in elevation, so I think one of the spots that has just a great view is the bar at the top of the Hilton [Cleveland Downtown]—Bar 32—that has a great view of the lake. It’s just gorgeous. If you haven’t seen it, you should try it.

And Voinovich [Bicentennial] Park downtown, if you can catch a nice sunset—when it’s not raining—that’s also a really beautiful setting.

5. What’s your favorite thing about Case Western Reserve?

I know and I feel like Case Western Reserve is a microcosm of the way the world is going, in that there are a lot of big problems that require a lot of big solutions that require collaboration and cooperation between a large number of disciplines. The culture that exists here, it’s an assumption that you will be collaborating with other disciplines. We see that especially in our music majors because [many] of them are double-majors or dual-degrees. You know that they’re going to be stellar students or they wouldn’t be here, but they’re also good performers. Neither one is sacrificed.