WILDWOOD – Music, family, and service are all a part of Denise Konneman’s heritage. Konneman recently stepped away from sharing her talent as the pianist at Fellowship of Wildwood to move with her retired husband, Larry, to Liberty, Mo., to be near her children and grandchildren.
“My mom began my music career,” Konneman said. “She played several instruments because of her musical family, and she wanted us to grow up with music.”
Konneman’s dad, Dick Clark, member of Fellowship of Wildwood, added even more about his late wife, Betty, and her musical upbringing. “Her family was known as the Holsapple Family,” he said, “and the kids traveled around Missouri and Western Illinois to sing at evangelistic revival meetings. The evangelists even had cards made to promote their singing. When our daughters came along, Betty wanted to teach them to sing.”
“That’s what we did,” Konneman said. “Mom’s family with nine kids would gather after all the work was done on the farm and make music. They would play different instruments, the piano, organ, banjo, guitar, and accordion. So, when we were little, mom would gather the four of us around the piano and teach us to sing. My youngest sister was only three.”
The girls were invited to sing at banquets, church services and celebrations. All the sisters had the opportunity for lessons or played instruments, but the piano was a special love for Konneman. “My mom had the gift of playing by ear,” she said, “But, she insisted that I learn to read music. She could play any song in any key by ear, but she wanted me to be technically accurate and to read music. My education was a rare gift.”
Konneman started playing at church for the junior department when she was ten years old. “I got a lot of encouragement,” she said. “It didn’t matter how good I was. I believe it is important to allow young musicians the opportunity to play and to encourage them.”
The encouragement paid off, Konneman continued with lessons from different teachers. During her junior and senior years of high school, she took lessons from a former member of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra.
“She expected two hours a day of practice,” Konneman continued. “I would get up at six everyday to get in at least an hour of practice before school. But that advanced training took my playing to a whole other level and was a real benefit when I went to William Jewell for college.”
Konneman graduated from William Jewell with a music degree and education to teach K-12 music. She worked for more than 30 years teaching in the Rockwood School District. Her first teaching job was with the Special School District.
“I was teaching at that school with a special grant,” she said, “to teach electric keyboard with headphones to the severely disabled. It was the best experience to start my teaching because it taught me to meet the children where they are and to teach individually.”
Dennis Goskie, minister of music for the early worship service, has worked with Konneman for three years. “She is a sweet, godly woman and an encourager,” he said. “She understands the spirit of worship. She knows what to play and when to play it.”
“An accompanist needs to lead the singing and Denise does that,” Goskie continued. “She commands the instrument and encourages the congregation to sing.”
The sisters, Cheryl Smith; Vicki Williams; Kerry Bruce Jr. and Denise Konneman, surprised their dad recently by gathering to sing in the Fellowship of Wildwood worship service for his 95th birthday. Clark was emotional as he shared, “It was just like old times.”
Clark said he and his wife talked about the legacy they wanted to leave. “We had a happy life,” he said, “because the Lord was in the center of it. It was important for us to encourage our children and grandchildren to always use their talents for the Lord. We wanted them to discover what God meant for them to do and to do it for Him.”