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Tom O'Kelly - Director

Tom O’Kelly is one of Australia’s most distinguished percussionists and teachers. After early percussion studies in Melbourne and a varied freelance career, including engagements with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and the ABC Showband, Tom was appointed Principal Percussionist with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra in 1981. In 1983 Tom was invited by Sylvio Gualda (Solo Timpanist of the Paris Opera) to further his studies at the Conservatoire Nationale de Versailles. During his time in France, Tom worked with leading luminaries of the French contemporary music scene including Pierre Boulez and Iannis Xenakis. He graduated from the Conservatoire Nationale de Versailles in 1985 with a Premier Prix de Percussion. He returned to Australia and was re-appointed to the position of Principal Percussionist with the TSO and later became the orchestra’s Principal Timpanist.

 

After touring Japan as guest percussionist with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra in 1988, Tom decided to return to Melbourne. In 1989, the MSO’s Chief Conductor, Hiroyuki Iwaki, invited Tom to take up the position of Principal Timpanist with the newly formed Orchestra Ensemble Kanazawa.

 

Tom was featured as percussion soloist with the OEK, premiering two new percussion concertos (composed for him by Maki Ishii and Atsuhiko Gondai) in Tokyo’s Suntory Hall. He toured extensively with the OEK throughout Europe and Asia, performed as soloist with some of Japan’s major orchestras and was invited to record a solo CD for the JVC Victor label. Tom’s live performances and definitive interpretations of the percussion concertos by Darius Milhaud and Andre Jolivet (recorded live in Japan with Maestro Jean Louis Forestier and the OEK) were released in 2005 by Warner Classics. Since his return to Australia in 1998, Tom has been guest Principal Timpanist with the Tasmania and Melbourne Symphony Orchestras and continues to be guest Principal Timpanist with the Orchestra Ensemble Kanazawa.

 

Tom’s passion for teaching and inspiring young percussionists has spanned some 30 years. He has been Lecturer in Percussion at the Tasmanian Conservatorium and guest tutor at the National Music Camp, the Australian National Academy of Music, the Young Symphonist’s Program and the Kids at Risk Program. He is currently a Lecturer in Percussion at the Queensland Conservatorium.

 

Tom is the CEO and founder of Just Percussion, Brisbane’s leading resource for drums and percussion instruments. He also teaches privately and directs Just Percussion’s teaching facility, JP Music.

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