Skip to Content

School of Music


John Kenneth Adams

John Kenneth Adams, Distinguished Professor Emeritus, passed away April 29, 2018 after a long illness.  Professor Adams came to the University of South Carolina in 1964 as a Professor of Piano and Piano Literature. Professor Adams was the soloist with the South Carolina Philharmonic Orchestra on their first subscription concert on October 1964. He established the Concerto-Aria Competition with Arthur Fraser, the Friends of Music Recital Series, "Piano Portraits", "Sundays at Lowman" piano recital series, and the fall festival of chamber concerts. His students won many prestigious competitions including the MTNA Young Artist Competition, the Dimitri Mitropoulos Scholarship foundations, and the Rotary International Fellowships. His students have won the USC Symphony Concerto Competition and have performed with the South Carolina Philharmonic. 

Professor Adams was born December 11, 1934 in Fort Smith, AR and graduated from the University of Missouri, where he studied with Mary Newitt Dawson. During this time, he also studied with Carl Friedberg and with Joanna Graudan at the Aspen Festival. Professor Adams earned both the Bachelor of Music and the Master of Music degrees from Yale University School of Music, where he was a student of Bruce Simonds. While studying at Yale, he won the Julia Lockwood Prize in piano and performed twice as soloist with the Yale Symphony. Winning a Fulbright Award to the Royal Academy of Music, London, Adams studied with Hilda Dederich. He also studied at the Caslas Festival in Zermatt, Switzerland, with Frank Mannheimer, and with Ilonka Deckers-Kuszlerin Milan. 

Professor Adams performed around the world with concerts at Wigmore Hall in London, the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam and Well Recital Hall in New York City. He is well known in South America, where he performed over 150 concerts in Brazil, Chile, Peru, and Colombia, under the sponsorship of the United State Information Service, also performing in Spain, Italy, Turkey, France, England, Scotland and Bulgaria. His performances in the United States include many recitals for the Matthay Association and the Mannheimer Festival. He performed frequently in South Korea, where he was known for his masterclasses and lectures. 

In South Carolina, Professor Adams presented many radio broadcasts for the South Carolina Educational Radio Network, and also presented his series of Piano Portraits presented across the state. In 1986-87 he performed all the piano music of Debussy in five recitals. Professor Adams was a member of the French Piano Institute in Paris for seven summers and also wrote three articles on the piano music of Debussy for The Piano Quarterly. 

Professor Adams was a past president of the South Carolina Music Teachers Association, and a founding member of the Varna International Masterclass for Piano, Varna, Bulgaria. His awards include the Alumni Achievement Award from the University of Missouri, the Award of Merit from Yale University, and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the South Carolina Music Teachers Association. Professor Adams retired from USC in 2002.

At Professor's Adams request, there will be no memorial service.  Gifts in memoriam of Professor Adams can be made to the Educational Foundation of the University of South Carolina: John K. Adams Fund for Students in the School of Music