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Retired landscaper conducts Messiah at Music Conservatory

Music has always been part of Kent Kimball's life.

By Kaye Hult

When people ask retired Coeur d'Alene landscaper Kent Kimball, who received a diploma in theology from the University of the South School of Theology (Episcopalian) in May 2020, what language is spoken in heaven, he said they may expect him to say the biblical languages of Latin, Greek or Hebrew.

As a lifelong musician and the Music Conservatory of Coeur d'Alene executive director and concert conductor, Kent gives a different answer.

"The language spoken in heaven is music," he said, explaining how his faith and new theological perspective intertwine with music and arts.

One example is Handel's Messiah.

The Music Conservatory of Coeur d'Alene will perform The Messiah at 3 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 3, at the Schuler Performing Arts Center at North Idaho College in Coeur d'Alene with a 50-member chorus, 22-member orchestra and four soloists.

"The Messiah is musical ecumenism," said Kent. "The lyrics of every movement come straight from the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament."

Those performing come from various Christian denominations—Anglican, Baptist, Catholic, Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints, Eastern Orthodox, Episcopal, Lutheran, Methodist, nondenominational and Presbyterian churches. Some of the performers are Jewish, and others are members of other faiths.

Singers come from groups such as Chorale Coeur d'Alene, Spokane Symphonic Chorale, University of Idaho, Eastern Washington University, North Idaho College and local churches.

Orchestra members are from Coeur d'Alene Symphony, Spokane Symphony, North Idaho Philharmonia and conservatory faculty.

The soloists are soprano Madison Leonard, alto Amanda Glover, tenor Tobin Eyestone and bass Steven Mortier.

Madison, who grew up in Coeur d'Alene, is a top U.S. and international opera singer.

The conservatory formed four years ago. Historians Deborah Mitchell and Cindy Nunn helped rally the neighborhood to save an historic building Kootenai County had owned for two years and planned to demolish.

They researched its history, found it was built by the second mayor of Coeur d'Alene and arranged for it to be placed in the National Register of Historic Buildings. They also found information about many notable people who lived there.

When Julienne Dance heard about the efforts to save the building and drove down Government Way to see it, she realized it would be the perfect spot to fulfill her dream to bring a music conservatory to Coeur d'Alene.

A group was formed to bring about this new idea. They formed the conservatory as a 501 (C)(3) nonprofit corporation.

The Board of County Commissioners agreed to sell it to the new conservatory, if they could raise the funds by a certain deadline.

"Less than an hour before the property was to be bulldozed, thanks to strong financial support and intervention by local businessmen and philanthropists Pepper Smock and Steve Widmyer, the property was purchased and leased to the conservatory," Kent said.

The conservatory's mission is to promote musical excellence through quality instruction, performance opportunities, collaborative partnerships and special events, he said.

"We teach kids and adults, all types of music, but mostly classical music," said Kent. "Our students learn the best music from the best teachers around. They have performances before friends, relatives and strangers. We teach guitar, voice, strings, brass, woodwinds, piano, percussion, harp, choir, composition, conducting and music theory. We teach how to read, memorize and improvise music."

Kent joined the conservatory community two years ago, when he stopped by to see what the place was about. He was newly retired from owning and operating K2 Landscaping for 30 years, and a career in the arts—conducting, singing, doing voice-overs, performing in operas, stage plays and movies.

Growing up in Hollywood, he was the son of a newspaper and magazine publisher and a mother who played piano and organ and composed music.

"Mom exposed me to music and musical theater," he said. "I was on stage when I was five years old. When I was 13, I sang 'You Got Trouble,' from The Music Man both on stage and on television."

His mother was also a church organist and choir director. When Kent was 15, she taught him to conduct using basic conducting patterns so he could conduct the choir.

"As a high school junior in Fallbrook, Calif., I was student conductor and president of the 100-member high school choir," he said.

"Between my junior and senior years, I found a score of the Messiah," he said. "In the summer, I studied closely every piece in the oratorio—53 movements, all directly quoted from the Bible."

That fall, he spoke to to the school choir conductor and proposed that the choir perform the Messiah.

The conductor replied, "You're joking!" but later agreed.

Kent went on to study music, urged on by his mother, and business administration, demanded by his father. He attended six colleges and universities, always studying music and business simultaneously. He graduated in 1973 from the University of Southern California.

He entered the Navy as a naval flight officer, navigating flights and singing around the country in the Naval Air Command Choir of Pensacola, Fla.

Kent's career has developed from seeing an opportunity and pursuing it.

After the Navy, he was a sales and marketing executive in communications and computer hardware for 18 years. Because that made it difficult for him to act and fit music into his life, he formed K2 Landscaping, which gave him a more flexible schedule.

For 20 years, he and his wife owned a rental home near Lake Coeur d'Alene and moved there permanently 13 years ago.

"I became involved at the Music Conservatory of Coeur d'Alene," he said, "because music has always been profoundly important to me. After developing a secular business for 30 years, I needed something to do during the late autumn and winter of my life. I decided to invest my time in music, in the conservatory and in the future of children."

His landscaping skills came in handy as he helped design and install new landscaping around the exterior of the building when he first became involved, about a year and a half after it opened.

He served as president of the board of directors before becoming executive director five months ago.

Kent also conducts the chancel, handbell and summer choirs at First Presbyterian Church in Coeur d'Alene.

For information, call 208-901-8190 or email

Copyright@ The Fig Tree, December 2023