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John Kinzie Faculty Profile

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Chris Wiger

by Chris Wiger

Profile  •

William Ward was credited as saying, “The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.”

As director of public relations at Lamont, I’ve reported on and sometimes accompanied our students to perform on tour or attend a national event. While reporting on our percussion students competing at PASIC (the Percussion Arts Society International Convention) where they won a number of top awards, I started hearing about their connection with and admiration for their Lamont professor, John Kinzie. I recently contacted a handful of John’s dedicated former and current students for this Lyrics profile.

First, a brief introduction: for more than 20 years as a Lamont professor, John Kinzie has taught percussion and timpani performance, percussion ensemble, master classes, and percussion pedagogy and repertoire. He has been principal percussionist since 1985 with the Colorado Symphony, where he often involves his students as substitutes and guest performers.

For Rachel Hargroder (MM 2008), Kinzie made a long-lasting, positive impression. “John taught me more than just how to be a professional musician. His tough love and no-nonsense teaching style also taught me how to better enjoy life, and in turn, become a better version of myself. I had many great experiences that stand out from my time in John’s studio, from playing with the Colorado Symphony, to laughing hysterically at something ridiculous that happened during a lesson.” Joey Glassman (BM 2014) commented, John's impact on my musical life cannot be overstated. He completely changed how I approached each instrument, maximizing the beauty of each of their individual characters. That's great on its own, but what's most amazing about my time with John is that he mentored me all without imposition! He taught me HOW to express myself and how to maximize my ideas without supplanting them with his own; in other words, he guided me to becoming the deepest version of my musical self.”

Andrew Ferdig (BM 2016) owes much of who he is today to John Kinzie. “While his musical teachings will last in my playing throughout my career, it is John’s life lessons that have made a resounding impact on how I carry myself both on and off stage. John continuously teaches me the importance of professionalism, kindness, and (of course) humor. I could not have asked for a greater mentor.” “I had the pleasure of being John’s GTA through grad school,” says Neal Titus (MM 2017).He supported me while researching non-traditional literature, encouraged me to listen to music differently, and challenged me to ask questions about everything. I learned not only how to perform music from John, but I also learned about relationship building with my peers. I most certainly would not be where I am today without the mentorship and guidance of John Kinzie.”  

More recent graduate Kevin Keith (AD 2019) commented that Kinzie “helped me develop the courage and authority to take charge of my own development as a musician and a person. Our lessons always incorporated thorough discussions of confidence, decision-making and preparedness that have helped me in so many ways during performances, guest appearances and auditions. I am so grateful to have studied with John and am grateful to be able to call him my mentor and colleague!” Current Lamont student Justin Douté (AD) also showed his appreciation: “I am very grateful to him because he doesn’t just teach and organize the percussion department, he treats it as his family away from home. I feel very comfortable around him and the studio, which gives great inspiration for progressing as a musician. He has lifted me up when I most needed it. John is an unlimited optimism machine. He encourages you when you fail and pushes you further when you succeed.”

After more than 20 years, Kinzie’s students are already legion. Here's to inspiring and mentoring many more students for years to come.