Music composer slides in safely behind home plate

By Dan Aznoff | Nov 15, 2017
Courtesy of: Ken DeJong Mill Creek resident Ken DeJong looks over his piano while working on a musical arrangement for his upcoming concert when he conducts The Lyric Arts Ensemble at the First Lutheran Church in Bothell. In addition to his work with musical composition, the conductor enjoys time behind home plate as a baseball umpire officiating high school, summer and men’s recreational league games.

It’s not unusual for Mill Creek resident Ken DeJong to pull off his facemask and chest protector as he races from the noise of the baseball field to the peaceful atmosphere of a concert hall to rehearse for an upcoming concert.

He laughs at the similarities of the seemingly contrasting passions in his life.

“Both situations allow me to wear black, wave my arms and always have my back to the audience,” he said. “It gives me the illusion that I am actually in control.”

DeJong spent 25 years as the musical director and organist at St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church in Bellevue before shifting his focus to composing in 2012. He will be holding the baton again when he conducts The Lyric Arts Ensemble this Sunday at the First Lutheran Church in Bothell.

The 17-person musical performance group is comprised of both singers and a chamber orchestra. The members all contribute their time and talent at zero cost.

The native of Whatcom County gave up playing baseball 30 years ago, but he never lost his passion for the game. Or his desire to be on the field. He was motivated by an advertisement he read calling for volunteers to arbitrate baseball games.

“The two activities help keep life interesting and not focused on a single activity,” DeJong said. “I stopped playing baseball, but I still played fast-pitch softball and continued to love the game.”

The maestro said he has never been forced to eject an over-zealous parent. In fact, he has found parents to be thankful for somebody besides another parent to officiate games. He only needs to remind parents that everybody’s energy should be focused on the kids.

He has also resisted ejecting boisterous coaches due to the fact that the game could be forfeited without a coach in the dugout.

“That’s why we’re all here,” he said matter-of-factly. “As far as the kids, it’s always nice to hear them cheer when I walk onto the field.”

DeJong said he actually enjoys confrontation for the simple reason that he has the last word on a questionable call.

Members of his music group are almost as enthusiastic, he said, when the group meets in January and September every year to review new music.

His music, like his duties on the baseball field, gives DeJong the opportunity to teach.

“In most occasions, music is more predictable than baseball,” he explained. “In both music and baseball, my job is to facilitate. I never want to control the action.”

His compositions, like his concerts, are designed to be enjoyed by audiences of all ages and of virtually every musical taste.

“Our music is very audience-friendly,” he concluded with a smile.

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