Icon: Stan Kenton


Students will explore the music of Stan Kenton and compare his work to that of other “big band” leaders. Students will be introduced to the mellophonium, an instrument Kenton championed in the early 1960s.

NAfME National Standards: 6, 7, 8


Have class read Icon: Stan Kenton (page 16 of the Student Edition of In Tune). 


Discuss the article with the class. Key questions include:

  • How did Kenton describe his music? (Progressive jazz)
  • What kind of music was popular when he began leading bands? (Big band swing)
  • What was unusual about some of his most noteworthy ensembles? (They were very large)
  • What did Kenton do later in his career? (Toured colleges and focused on music education)
  • Did Kenton’s influence range outside of jazz? (Yes, he was also influenced by classical composers).


Listen to Artistry In Rhythm (1943), the theme-song (and namesake) of his ensemble. Discuss the sound and arranging style.

Listen to Glenn Miller’s “In The Mood,” from around the same period:

Discuss the stylistic differences between the pieces. Discuss places where Kenton’s influences veered away from swing/jazz into the classical realm.


Listen to Kenton’s 1962 performance of “Malaguena,” which draws on Latin American influences.  In his introduction, he points out the role of the mellophonium.


Kenton’s legacy as a jazz arranger also extends to his influence on music education. Here is a video of the 2014 Madison Scouts Drum & Bugle Corps’ brass line performing “Malaguena”

 Online resources for further study

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