Dr. Kevin Class
Kevin Class is a musician who exemplifies versatility. Having excelled in performance on various instruments at an early age (most notably the violin and piano) he was raised around orchestras, and demonstrated early success as a composer and conductor. Moving effortlessly between podium and piano, Kevin has become an accomplished teacher and performer as a pianist, collaborator and conductor of both orchestral and operatic literature. Kevin presently serves as the Director of Collaborative Piano at the University of Tennessee - Knoxville, and as Music Director of the university's acclaimed Opera Theatre. Prior to this appointment, he served on the Opera Studies faculty of Indiana University where he was Music Director and Conductor of the Martina Arroyo opera courses.
Born in Belgium, Kevin acquired a diverse musical education in Europe, the United States and Canada, including studies with Gyorgy Sebok, Daniel Blumenthal and Ralph Votapek. As a pianist, since his Carnegie Hall debut at the age of 19, Kevin has been a frequent soloist in such venues as Amsterdam's Concertgebouw, Geneva's Victoria Hall and Vienna's Musikverein. Following several seasons of annual performances in The Netherlands and Belgium, including the complete piano sonatas of Schubert in Amsterdam, Kevin was named a Fellow of the Flemish Community by the Belgian government in 1998. Following his return to the United States in 1999, Kevin took up teaching positions at both Indiana University and State University of New York-Potsdam. After considerable legal challenges with record companies and management agencies, Kevin decided to halt his activities as a piano soloist, at the end of 2000, in order to focus more attention on teaching, recording, chamber music, vocal collaboration and especially conducting.
In 2001, Kevin became resident conductor and a Guest Music Director for the University of Illinois Opera Theatre. Under the tutelage of John Wustman, Kevin began cultivating his skills in the vocal arts to enhance his work in the opera pit as well as in recital work with singers. Conducting productions ranging from the operas of Mozart to French Grand Opera and works of Puccini (a.o.), he also conducted a series of American operas including Kurt Weill's Street Scene, Hugo Weisgall's Six Characters in Search of an Author and Russell Smith's Unicorn in the Garden. After four seasons with the Illinois Opera Theatre, Class returned to Indiana University to lead more than 15 operas in two seasons at the musical healm of Martina Arroyo's Advanced Role Preparation course. With more than 50 operas in his active repertoire, conducting activities have found him on the podium at the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden as well the National Opera Theatre La Monnaie in Brussels, and as a regular guest conductor for Opera Illinois (Peoria). In orchestral repertoire he has appeared in front of the Chicago Youth Symphony, Northern Illinois Philharmonic, the University of Kentucky Symphony Orchestra, and as Resident Conductor of the Illinois New Music Ensemble as well as various orchestras and ensembles in Europe and Asia.
As a collaborative pianist, Kevin has long been active in both instrumental and vocal repertoire. During the 2008-2009 season, Class participated in a series of concerts featuring solo and chamber works by Elliott Carter (celebrating the centennial of the composer's birth) as well as performances, with mezzo-soprano Emily Langford Johnson, of Frederic Rzewski's monumental monodrama Antigone-Legende. While also involved in traditional Lieder/art song recitals and chamber music, the aforementioned projects illustrate Kevin's commitment to contemporary music. This devotion to music of our time has resulted in a number of world premiers of works by composers such as Gunther Schuller, William Albright and William Bolcom, and continues to manifest itself through masterclasses and collaborations with young composers, performers and new music ensembles around the world. In 2009, Kevin founded New Music from an Ancient Land as a commissioning program that solicited new works from emerging Chinese composers (works which incorporate elements traditional Chinese music) and arranged premiere performances in the U.S.. This program generated works for one and two pianos, pieces for clarinet, saxophone, viola, songs, works for chamber ensembles, choirs and orchestras.
Having resided in Asia as a child, Kevin has long held a deep affinity for the people and art of the region. His devotion to the training and promotion of Asian musicians has been extensive, and continues to be a focus of much of his attention. During the 2008-2009 season, Kevin held a series of three residencies in South Korea as a Guest Professor of Piano at Seoul's acclaimed Yonsei University. He was then asked to design a curriculum and audition standards for the establishment of degrees in Collaborative Piano at that esteemed institution. In 2009, Kevin was the Founder, Conductor and Music Director of the Seoul International Opera Program. Kevin has been engaged six times to conduct month-long residencies in China since 2009. He holds Guest Professorships at Hebei Normal University in Shijiazhuang (Piano), and Southwest University in Chongqing (Conducting). He has also given workshops and masterclasses for pianists, conductors and composers in 2011, 2012 and 2013 in Shanghai, Chengdu, Kunming and Zhuhai, China. He has also designed the programming models for the major new music festivals of the Sichuan Conservatory, and for young artist opera programs in Taiwan.
In 2013 and 2014, Kevin held four residencies in Manila, The Philippines as a Guest Professor of the University of the Philippines-Diliman, and as Conductor-in-Residence at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. In addition to working with young singers and instrumentalist, he also conducted Hindemith and Schoenberg Symphonies with the UP Wind Ensemble, and severed as Artistic Director of the Baroque in Boracay Festival.
During the 2015/16 season in Knoxville, Kevin will continue to perform with Knoxville Symphony Orchestra's concertmaster Gabriel Lefkowitz on the KSO Concertmaster Series. Kevin will also complete his cycle of the complete chamber music, with piano, of Johannes Brahms and will perform the complete piano sonatas of Mozart.
During the summer, Kevin serves as Professor and Coordinator of the Conducting, Collaborative Piano and Chamber Music programs for Oberlin in Italy, where he is also Music Director/Conductor of the Emerging Artists Opera Program.
Kevin has been profiled by BBC, NPR, PBS, Radio Noord Holland, KBS (Korea) and CCTV (China).