Michael Combs joined the KSO as Principal Timpanist in the fall of 1968 under Maestro David VanVactor and has served under all KSO conductors and guest conductors over the past 45 years. He performed three times as soloist with the KSO Chamber Orchestra, performed with the percussion section in two major percussion concertos, and was featured on numerous occasions during his lengthy career with the KSO. Michael served as an orchestra representative to the KSO Board and as a member of the KSO conductor search committee.
Until his recent retirement, Michael was Professor of Percussion at the University of Tennessee and many of his students have moved on to become major performers and educators in Tennessee and around the country. He served a term as President of the UT Faculty Senate and UT has designated him as “Professor Emeritus of Music.” His book on percussion is a standard text in many colleges and several publishing companies carry his compositions. His articles and reviews have appeared in numerous professional journals.
Michael Combs is a member of the Leadership Knoxville class of 1998 and has served on the LK Board of Directors. He is the founding President of the Joy of Music School – a program that provides free music instruction for disadvantaged children. He has served as a Director on the Boards of the Tennessee Theatre and the Bijou Theatre and is currently a Commissioner on the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative Commission and a member of the James White Fort Board of Directors.
In the very early days of the formation of the KSO Youth Orchestra, Michael worked with the original conductors to help develop that program and served as coach for the wind and percussion sections. Today, his granddaughter plays principal violin in one of the KSO youth orchestras and all three of his grandchildren study violin. He often gives special percussion demonstrations for area school children and gives regular tours of the East Tennessee History Museum to young school groups.
His special recognitions include the Tennessee Arts Academy Lifetime Achievement Award, the Tennessee Higher Education Commission’s Resolution of Commendation, and Phi Eta Sigma award for excellence in teaching.