Ned Kirk enjoys a diverse career as pianist, teacher, administrator, adjudicator, clinician, and artistic consultant. Kirk is serving in his 11th season as Artistic and Managing Director of the Minnesota Beethoven Festival, a position he has held since the Festival’s founding in 2007. Over the years Kirk has collaborated with many concert artists on unique projects featured at the festival. For the past eight seasons Kirk has worked closely with legendary choral director, Dale Warland, in the production of a resident festival chorale created specifically for the Minnesota Beethoven Festival. The entrepreneurial spirit of the festival has led to many other unique collaborations including with baritone Thomas Hampson (American River Songs), Osmo Vänskä and the Minnesota Orchestra (all nine symphonies of Beethoven), and the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra (five consecutive appearances including two live broadcasts). In addition, Kirk has long partnered with Minnesota Public Radio in the production of live and recorded broadcasts of festival concerts and has appeared in conversation on air numerous times.
In 2012 Kirk performed with saxophonist Branford Marsalis in what was Marsalis’ first-ever classical recital and led to a multi-year collaboration between Kirk and Marsalis. Kirk has also worked closely with violinist Qian Zhou in solo and chamber music concerts in China, Singapore, and the United States. Other collaborations have included numerous outstanding musicians, many of whom have served as conductors and principals in major orchestras around the world – conductor Michael Christie, recorder player Michala Petri, pianist Kevin Kenner, cellist Li-Wei Qin, violist Lionel Tan, hornist Charles Kavalowski, bassoonist Glenn Einschlag, oboist Olav Van Hezewijk, violist Ron Ephrat, trumpeter Jeffrey Work, clarinetist David Jones, flutist Lisa-Maree Amos, cellist Daniel Rothmuller, violist Donald McInnes, and the Shanghai Quartet.
Kirk has appeared as a concerto soloist with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, La Crosse Symphony Orchestra, Eau Claire Chamber Orchestra, and the Shasta Symphony. In addition, Kirk served as orchestral pianist for the Colorado Music Festival in Boulder, Colorado, for three summers, performing many of the seminal orchestral works that feature piano, including Stravinsky’s Petrouchka, Piazzolla’s Three Chamber Pieces for piano and string orchestra, Saint-Saëns’ Carnival of the Animals for two pianos, and Copland’s Appalachian Spring and Billy the Kid.
In 2010 Kirk performed in Mombasa and Nairobi, Kenya, on a United States Embassy-sponsored tour where he gave multiple public recitals, master classes, teacher workshops, radio appearances, and two private concerts: one for the United States Ambassador to Kenya and another for the United States Consular to Somalia.
In partnership with Tanjin Culture in Guangzhou, China, and Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota, Kirk serves as director of the GMT (Graded Music Test). Music students from all over China prepare pieces taken from eleven grade levels of repertoire specially chosen by Kirk and published for the GMT. Kirk travels frequently throughout China giving lectures and master classes to hundreds of piano teachers to help them prepare students for the exam. His partnership with Tanjin Culture also includes offering summer piano pedagogy workshops for teachers from China, and a piano competition for young pianists from China and the United States, both on the campus of Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota.
Kirk is also sought after as an artistic consultant. He has worked with numerous musical arts organizations around the world on such diverse projects as curricular design for collegiate music programs (Kenya), applied studio curriculum at the high school level (Colombia), and music festival administrative structures (Malaysia).
Kirk does extensive adjudicating, having now served on the jury of the Hong Kong International Piano Invitation Competition for the fifth consecutive year, where he has heard thousands of piano students over the years. In addition, he often adjudicates piano competitions in the upper Midwest and is the lead adjudicator for the GMT administered in China.
Kirk pursued his early training at the Peabody Conservatory of Music, earning a Bachelor’s degree in piano performance as a student of Walter Hautzig. He furthered his study by earning a Master’s degree in piano performance at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, as a student of Nigel Coxe and a Doctorate in piano performance as a student of Craig Sheppard at the University of Washington. Other significant mentors include Earl Carlyss, Tinka Knopp, Lillian Freundlich, Estella Olevsky, and Charles Treger.
Kirk has taught at the Marrowstone Music Festival in Port Townsend, Washington; spent four summers teaching piano master classes to students from rural Alaska at the Sitka Fine Arts Institute in Sitka, Alaska; served on the piano faculty at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington, for seven years; recently finished serving a three-year term as Guest Professor at Huizhou University in Huizhou, China; and is currently Professor of Piano and chair of the music department at Saint Mary’s University in Winona, Minnesota, where he has maintained a studio of talented and energized piano students for the past 18 years.