“What I like about the arts is that it brings people together from all walks of life, allowing them to express themselves unapologetically.” –Daniell Kenney, Founder, Listen-Up AMS

by Joycelyne Fadojutimi

            Daniell D. Kenney is a fluid technician at Pro Frac Services. He and wife of 13 years, Teressa Ann Turner-Kenney, adore their adopted three-year-old son Zameon. Their service to those around them is a blessing both ways as they and those they serve as foster parents reap the rewards of their selfless labors For Kenney, his precious Teressa is his driving force.

            “She provokes me to be successful by reminding me who God has called me to be,” he says. “She encourages me to maintain my integrity, always calling me her king, her pastor, her rock, etc.”

            Kenney dearly loves his lifelong home of Longview, where parents Larry and Angela Kenney brought him up and prepared him for the success he has become. Both parents worked for and retired from STEMCO but did much more than just work for a living. Larry still serves as associate pastor for Faith Tabernacle of God in Kilgore. He taught his son how to be a father not just to his own children, but to others who, without him, would have no fathers at all. Local children still love to be with the elder Kenney, listening to his Bible stories over dishes of ice cream.

            Angela keeps active, cooking for others and helping them in any ways she can while also organizing vacations, reunions, church programs and conferences. Her son has inherited these artistic abilities as he motivates others to loving service through   singing, event planning and creation. For Danielle Kenney, rhythms are a direct path to worship.

            “Music has always been a part of my life. I would write songs and jingles [in order] to remember important information on tests,” he says. “What I like about the arts is that it brings people together from all walks of life, allowing them to express themselves unapologetically.”

            In his younger days, Daniell stayed active in church as an usher, choir member, song leader, drummer and choir director. He would annually organize a gospel music workshop in Kilgore, calling it Praise Fest. He would even fill in as a disc jockey for station KJTX, collaborating with Ray Williams, who taught him to promote shows and connect with recording artists.

            The Year of Our Lord 1996 saw him graduate from Longview High School, after which he took a sabbatical from education and spent 13 years working in the vast East Texas oilfields. In 2009, his Teressa convinced him to pursue his dream of a college education. After he got started, it did not take long. In 2011, he earned his associates of arts in business from Kilgore Junior College, a Bachelor of Science in accounting from LeTourneau University in 2013, and, also from LeTourneau, a master’s degree in Business Administration in 2014.

            When he met Longview’s beloved Elaine Reynolds, his love for Longview, arts and culture moved to higher heights.

            “She was a great and caring person, willing to give any information and tools that I needed to be successful,” he says. “After a brief involvement with her, my life took a different turn for the better.”

            After losing an unborn baby to miscarriage, he and Teressa took in two foster children. This new obligation was so time-consuming he had to resign his executive director job and stop his education. Soon afterwards, with Reynolds encouragement, he came up with an idea for a local nonprofit modeled on the Dallas-based Black Academy of Arts and Letters (BAAL.) This would entail using the performing arts to inspire local young people to move forward into careers in engineering, technology, mathematics and science. She encouraged him to launch this organization and to organize gospel music events like one she had been to while attending a convention.

            He was worried that he would need a name like Billy Graham, Joel Osteen or TD Jakes in order to convince businesses to sponsor such a gospel music-oriented event, but Reynolds had faith in him. After speaking with BAAL founder Curtis King, he got started. On November 17, 2017 Listen-Up AMS opened for business. The next day, after being the catalyst for this cultural-arts non-profit, he went to city hall to tell Reynolds the good news. “There were many sad faces and I asked them what was going on.” It was then I learned Elaine Reynolds had passed away. My heart sank into my chest.”

            “I could only remember the conversation we had that caused me to change my perception of the place I have grown and lived in my entire life,” he says. “That’s why I dedicated the July 6, All The Way Life Gospel Music Festival in her honor.”

            Last year, Kenney worked with Joshua Mathis and Clive Ennis to produce the first show as Listen-Up Nickelodeon’s Kel Mitchell. They gave away more than 700 tickets to such local charities. Kenney, Mathis and Ennis were honored June 17, 2018 with their own Listen-Up Day at city council.

            Kenney’s ideal life, “is to be a servant to the people, helping them to reach their goals.”