Tradition. Inspiration. Transformation

On behalf of 230 students, artist faculty, guest conductors and staff, welcome to the 60th anniversary season of the Sewanee Summer Music Festival. We continue the tradition of providing an exceptional orchestra and chamber music training program to musicians from throughout the world.

Since 1957, students have been transformed by the SSMF's intense musical experiences, and we can point with pride to a large number who now have distinguished careers in music.

You, too, will be inspired and transformed by a multitude of diverse events—many free. We are pleased that you are here to enjoy our tradition of world-class music-making in these magnificent surroundings.

Outside at Guerry


SSMF Staff

‌John Kilkenny, Director

John Kilkenny enjoys a unique career in the music world as a performer, educator and conductor. Hailed as a “particularly fine timpanist” by the Washington Post, John’s active performance schedule in the 2016-2017 season includes multiple performances of the Michael Daugherty Raise the Roof: Concerto for timpani and wind ensemble, solo and duo recitals, master classes, orchestral performances and multiple guest conducting engagements.  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). Throughout his career, he has had the privilege to perform with a range of ensembles, including the National Symphony,Washington National Opera and Ballet, American Symphony, National Philharmonic, The Wolf Trap Center for the performing Arts Orchestra, 21st Century Consort, the Washington Bach Consort, National Gallery New Music Ensemble, Verge Ensemble,  and many others.
Recent commissions and premieres include multiple works by Alejandro Vinao, a collection of 32 duets for keyboard percussion by Nathan Daughtrey and Brett Dietz, ensemble works by Stephen Gorbos, Donald McCullough, Peter Erskine, Peter Klatzow, Victor Provost, Avner Dorman, John Luther Adams, and Nico Muhly.  He as been privileged to share the stage with an array of artists, including Robert van Sice, She e Wu, John Tafoya, Chris Deviney, Jonathan Haas, clarinetist Chad burrow, cellists Joshua Roman and Tobias Werner, flautist Karen Johnson and pianists Garry Hammond, Carlos Rodriguez, Steven Beck and Eric Huebner.

A committed educator, John is Director of Percussion Studies and Assistant Director of Concert Bands at George Mason University. Under his leadership, “Mason Percussion” has become the leading university percussion program in the state of Virginia and a destination school for serious study of classical percussion. In 2011, John founded the Mason Percussion Group, an elite, audition based ensemble committed to commissioning and performing major works for percussion chamber music. Recent and upcoming highlights include collaborations with the Mason School of Dance, two feature performances the 2016 Percussive Arts Society International Convention (New Literature Showcase and Focus Day performance) 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, the Sitar Arts Center and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.  Students from the program regularly appear at summer festivals (Aspen, Eastern, Sewanee, Hot Springs, Texas), world class DCI drum corps (The Cadets, Carolina Crown, Santa Clara Vanguard, Raiders) and participate actively in the artistic community of Washington DC.

John is founder and faculty advisor for the George Mason University’s International Teaching Scholars: Costa Rica  The International Teaching Scholars (ITS) Costa Rica program is comprised of two key elements – community outreaching an performance.  Students selected for participation have the opportunity to perform, teach and connect with their peers at the National Conservatory and in the SiNEM (System for National Music Education) programs in and around San Jose, Costa Rica.  The ITS program also allows Mason students to learn  real world entrepreneurial skills, participating fully in the conception, planning and implementation of a two week international tour. The program also presents participating students with the opportunity to see first hand how music education can build community, contribute to society and transform lives.

During the Summer months, John is Artist-Faculty of the internationally acclaimed Sewanee Summer Music Festival, where he teaches a select number of private students, coaches chamber music and performs with his faculty colleagues.  He is deeply involved in the Music for All organization –  first connecting with MFA as an ensemble director in 2003.  For the past several years, he has served on the panel for the Sandy Feldstein National Percussion Festival and as a faculty member for the MFA Summer Symposium.  He was founder and co-director of the University of Maryland Summer Percussion Workshop (2005-2007) and the Indiana University Percussion Academy (2008-2010).  Since 2013 he has been the percussion advisor for the Northern Virginia Youth Winds. He is in demand as a guest conductor at regional and state music festivals and as a clinician for numerous colleges and universities across the country.

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 Masters 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


Hilary Dow Ward, Assistant Director

Originally from Eureka, Kansas, her education began at a small, neighborhood elementary school just blocks from her home, and matriculated to a large, high school community with a notorious fine arts program located 50 miles one way from home. Hilary has have traveled long and far to be part of schools that offer high quality learning experiences and an environment enhanced by culture and diversity in all its many forms.

Following graduation from Emporia High School, Hilary entered The University of Kansas (KU) School of Music, Lawrence, KS, where she studied Voice and Piano Performance. While at KU, Hilary was a choral scholar at Grace Episcopal Cathedral in Topeka, KS, and later at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Kansas City, Missouri. Her time at KU as a musician and as a “Jayhawk” provided her with many worthwhile experiences and happy memories. While in Lawrence, Hilary also experienced her first teaching job at Raintree Montessori School where she taught classroom/general music to boys and girls grades 1-6. In the summer of 2006, Hilary and her husband, Geoffrey, moved to Memphis as he was called to be the Organist/Choirmaster at St. John’s Episcopal Church, and Artistic Director of The Memphis Boychoir, Memphis Girlchoir and Memphis Chamber Choir. In Memphis, Hilary had the opportunity to teach Orff Music at Hickory Ridge Elementary School (former Memphis City Schools), and also to serve as the Youth Minister and School Chaplain at Grace-St. Luke’s Episcopal School and Church.

In the spring of 2011, Hilary graduated from Memphis Theological Seminary with a Masters of Arts in Religion. During her time at MTS, Hilary served 2 terms on the Student Senate and also as a Formation for Ministry Leader. Following her studies at MTS, Hilary graduated from Union University in the spring of 2013 with a Masters degree in Education. Hilary’s graduate studies continue at The University of Memphis as a doctoral student studying education administration, leadership and policy (EdD). In December 2013, she was awarded The University of Memphis, Dr. R. Eugene Smith Doctoral Fellowship/Scholarship GA for Higher and Adult Education. Also, while in Memphis, Hilary taught elementary and early childhood music at St. Mary’s Episcopal School for girls.  In addition to her time teaching and studying in the classroom, Hilary experienced her largest “classroom” yet as an on air classical music host for NPR, WKNO/WKNP. 

Before moving to Sewanee, Hilary worked and taught for Uncommon Charter Schools in New York City, a leading Charter Network in the United States that pioneered the “Teach Like a Champion” methodology. Hilary has completed over 200 hours of Teaching Artist Training through Lincoln Center Education at The Juilliard School in New York City.

She is a member of Sigma Alpha Iota International Music Fraternity and Kappa Delta Pi International Honor Society in Education. In Sewanee, Hilary is a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Music and in the School of Theology.

Hilary and her husband, Dr. Geoffrey Ward, and their son reside in Sewanee.


Artistic Advisory Committee

Chad Burrow
Lin He
Cesar Leal
Paul York