August 26, 2016 — Jesuit Father T. Frank Kennedy, internationally recognized scholar of Jesuit music, passed away of advanced pancreatic cancer on August 19 at the Campion Health Center in Weston, Massachusetts. He was 67.
On leave from Boston College, Fr. Kennedy was the senior research fellow in music at the University of Oxford's Campion Hall. He co-founded the Boston College music department in 1989, held the Canisius Chair in Humanities and Music, and served as director of the Jesuit Institute from 2002 to 2014, a research institute supporting various projects related to faith and culture.
As a music historian, he had a keen interest in the growth and development of early Jesuit music and its role in the Jesuit missions to new lands. He was known in particular for his groundbreaking scholarly work in South American and European archives to unearth the history of “mission music” and its diverse musical forms, associated especially with the Jesuit settlements in Paraguay and Brazil. His research established this genre as separate from European “cathedral music” long studied by musicologists. He edited, produced and professionally recorded four baroque operas associated with the early Society of Jesus, among numerous other recorded works.
As a board member and then director of the Jesuit Institute, Fr. Kennedy played a major role in promoting and supporting the emerging field of Jesuit studies. He and Jesuit historian Fr. John W. O’Malley, SJ, hosted two international conferences on Jesuits and Culture that brought together scholars from across the disciplines whose work touched on the early Jesuits.
A native of Providence and North Smithfield, Rhode Island, Fr. Kennedy began playing piano at age four and added organ and cello in high school. In 1966, he attended the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, and as a result of his friendship with Jesuits he encountered there as well as a student retreat at the Jesuits’ Shadowbrook novitiate, he decided to enter the Society of Jesus after his freshman year. He studied philosophy and classics at Boston College as part of his training.
During his early formation, Fr. Kennedy met and was influenced by Jesuits interested in exploring how artistic interests related to vocation. He went on to earn a master’s in harpsichord and baroque performance at Tulane University in New Orleans, then did his doctoral dissertation in musicology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, on the musical traditions of early Jesuit colleges and churches in Europe.
After six years on the College of the Holy Cross music faculty, in 1988 Fr. Kennedy returned to BC as a faculty member in the college’s new Music Department and became the department chair four years later. He served as a member of the Board of Trustees at Boston College, Loyola University Maryland, Loyola University New Orleans, the Terezin Foundation and the Boston Early Music Festival.
In 2014, Fr. Kennedy became a senior research fellow at Campion Hall at Oxford University, where he continued his studies on the history of Jesuits and music until health issues forced him to return to Boston.