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Music in Geneva: Ken Petersen, Legendary Appleknocker

March 11th, 2022

By John Marks, Curator of Collections

I like meeting people at work. Historic Geneva tells Geneva’s stories, so I get paid to listen to stories. Ken “Ace” Petersen, who passed away last month at 90 years old, was a particular memorable donor.

Ken was a Penn Yan native and resident, but very much part of Geneva’s history. A trumpet player from the age of 9, he joined the Appleknockers Drum and Bugle Corps as an adult. If you’re unfamiliar with the history of the Appleknockers, you can watch this video or listen to this podcast .

Ken’s obituary stated, “Beginning in the mid-1950’s he was featured field soloist for the famed Geneva Appleknockers and was noted for his tone, power and range. During this time, he also became featured soloist for the Appleknocker indoor shows and played Carnegie Hall in New York among other venues.”

Record Cover for Jazz Concert "On the Spot"eknockers

Appleknocker Record Cover

Drum and bugle corps music was usually marches and military tunes. The Appleknockers began playing show tunes and popular music. As a soprano soloist, Ken led the way, playing jazz-style on a single-valve bugle. Their indoor winter shows became as famous as their field competitions.

The Appleknockers senior corps folded in 1964 but Ken kept going. Again from the obituary: “He became corps director and brass instructor for various corps in Western New York and also established a reputation for teaching teens and young adults music and life lessons, helping them succeed when they previously were struggling.”

Bugler In White Shirt In Front Of Band

Ken Petersen is in the white shirt, soloing with Mighty St. Joe’s in his late 80s.

I met Ken in 2005, when he was in his early 70s. He stopped in on his way to LeRoy to practice with the Mighty St. Joe’s Alumni Corps. (In this photo, Ken is in the white shirt, soloing with Mighty St. Joe’s in his late 80s.) We talked about the Appleknockers – I remember seeing the Junior Corps in parades – and he said he had some things to donate. Thanks to him, we have several drums and bugles, uniforms from different time periods, and a street jacket that members wore.

Ken continued playing until the age of 86. He is in the World Drum Corps Hall of Fame and the Bugler’s Hall of Fame , and remembered fondly by those who learned from him.

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One response to “Music in Geneva: Ken Petersen, Legendary Appleknocker”

  1. Charlie Bauder says:

    John, Well done. I especially enjoyed the video. My brother-in-law, John Pangburn, played with the Appleknockers when he was in high school. He played with Ken and the Corp when they went to Miami for the nationals.

    Congratulations, another great Geneva story!

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