Michael Combs is Associate Principal Timpanist of the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra.
He joined the KSO in the fall of 1968 under Maestro David VanVactor and has served
as Principal Timpanist under all KSO conductors and guest conductors for almost five
decades. 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 his book on percussion is a standard text in many colleges.
Several publishing companies carry his compositions and 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
as a Commissioner on the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative Commission. He
currently serves as a Director on the Boards of Directors for the James White’s Fort and
the Joy of Music School.
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 a coach for the
wind and percussion sections. Today, his grandchildren study violin and participate in
KSO youth orchestra and public school music programs. 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.