Faculty & Staff

John Kilkenny

Director of Percussion

Term Associate Professor of Music
  • Applied Percussion
  • Conductor, Percussion Ensemble
  • B.M., Juilliard School
  • M.M., Temple University

John Kilkenny is a leading performer, educator and artistic leader who is successfully forging a 21st-century career in the performing arts.

Committed to the music of our time, John appears regularly as a soloist and chamber musician with a wide range of ensembles. He has given the Washington DC region premiere of the Philip Glass Concerto Fantasy for Two Timpanists and Wind Symphony and has performed Michael Daugherty’s timpani concerto Raise the Roof, with orchestras and wind ensembles across the United States. A recent sampling of his chamber music collaborations including The Kennedy Center Juke Box Series, 21st Century Consort, The Washington Bach Consort, National Gallery New Music Ensemble, and the Verge Ensemble.

He has been privileged to share the stage with an eclectic array of renown artists, including Robert van Sice, She e Wu, John Tafoya, Chris Deviney, Jonathan Haas, clarinetist Chad burrow, cellist Joshua Roman, flutist Karen Johnson and pianists Garry Hammond, Carlos Rodriguez, Steven Beck, and Eric Huebner. In 2014 he participated in the Washington DC premiere of John Luther Adams most recent large-scale work, Sila: Breath of the World with the United States Air Force Band, a co-commission with Lincoln Center. He was featured in a duo recital with cellist Tobias Werner on the 2016 Washingtonians on Wednesday recital series at the National Gallery of Art.

Appointed Artistic Director of the Sewanee Summer Music Festival in 2018, John is guiding this esteemed festival to new heights of artistic success. The 2019 season boasted significant increases in enrollment, earned revenue, and annual giving, as well as securing the first significant endowment gift in over a decade. This, in addition to website re-design, a new admission system and a modernized administrative structure have led to a record-breaking season; 251 students from 31 states and 8 countries attended Sewanee in the summer of 2019. John has developed new and expanded partnerships with other orchestral education programs and founded the first-ever National Advisory Board, a group of thought leaders who meet annually to offer overall strategic guidance for the Festival.

Hailed as a “particularly fine timpanist” by the Washington Post, John has enjoyed an active career as a symphonic percussionist, appearing with the National Symphony, Washington National Opera and Ballet, American Symphony, Cathedral Choral Society, Washington Chorus, Choral Arts Society of Washington, and The Wolf Trap Center for the Performing Arts Orchestra, to name a few.

Deeply committed to the future of classical music and a committed educator, John is Director of Percussion Studies and Associate Director of Concert Bands at George Mason University. Recent and upcoming highlights include the 2018 College Music Society National Conference in Vancouver, two feature performances the 2016 Percussive Arts Society International Convention the 2016 New York State Music Educators Conference, the 2014 Virginia Music Educators Conference, the 2011 Western International Band Conference, 2012 College Music Society Mid Atlantic Conference and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. The group toured Costa Rica in 2015 and will make their debut in a concert tour of China in 2020. For many years he guided recruitment activities for the School of Music.

Recognized internationally as an engaging and thoughtful clinician, John has enjoyed the unique opportunity to work with gifted young musicians at a wide range of institutions, including the Eastman School of Music, the Shepherd School at Rice University, The University of Michigan, The Juilliard Pre-College, New York University, Interlochen School for the Arts, University of Tennessee, University of North Carolina, The National Institute of Music in San Jose Costa Rica, The University of Costa Rica, and the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing. A long-standing relationship with The Music for All organization has seen John appear for many years as an evaluator and clinician for the Sandy Feldstein National Percussion Festival. In 2019 he served as the percussion clinician for the Honor Orchestra of America.

John studied conducting with Anthony Maiello and began early percussion training with Jonathan Haas and William Richards. He went on to receive his bachelor’s degree at the Juilliard School under the tutelage of Greg Zuber and Daniel Druckman. He completed a Master’s Degree at Temple University, where he studied with legendary percussionist Alan Abel. He is sponsored by Vic Firth Mallets, Zildjian Cymbals, Remo Percussion products, and is a proud Yamaha Performing Artist. For more information, please visit www.johnkilkennypercussion.com

Contact Prof. Kilkenny:  jkilken1@gmu.edu