John Kilkenny
Executive Director 

John Kilkenny is a percussionist, conductor, and artistic leader who is rewriting the rules of a classical music career. 

John has served as Artistic and Executive Director of the Sewanee Summer Music Festival since 2018. During this tenure, the festival has seen a 30% increase in enrollment, a 147% increase in annual giving, two new endowment gifts, and a vast expansion of artistic and educational programs.  He has created an administrative support structure that has allowed the festival to expand into several new programs, including composition, conducting, opera, and the String Academy.

A committed and inclusive leader, John has worked with his colleagues at the festival to build deep and meaningful relationships with a number of Musical Pathways programs, resulting in one of the most diverse student populations of any summer program. In January 2021, the Sewanee Music Festival launched its first-ever WinterFest. Offered digitally, this groundbreaking new program focused on career development, community engagement, performance practice, and in-depth study of the symphonic literature.  In total, the Music Festival now serves more than 400 students annually through both in-person and online programming.

Deeply committed to the future of classical music and a dynamic educator, John is Director of Percussion Studies and Associate Professor at George Mason University. The Mason percussion group has performed all over the world, including tours of Costa Rica, scheduled tours of China, and a variety of clinic performances.  As a clinician, John has enjoyed the unique opportunity to work with gifted young musicians at a wide range of institutions throughout the United States and around the world.

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. Additional studies include management and leadership training at the DeVos Institute at the Kennedy Center, The Fundraising Standard, and The Harvard Business School Online.