Born in Philadelphia in 1971, Seán J. Kennedy has fueled the effort behind his jazz releases, Queen Anne’s Revenge and Road to Wailea, with all the flavor one would presume of a diligent, innovative man from the City of Brotherly Love. Waldo the Squid of DRUM! Magazine commented on the savory temptation luring hard-core jazz enthusiasts to Kennedy’s versatile musicianship when he suggests, “There are a lot of onions on this young man’s cheesesteak…” Likewise, Seán’s varied and impressive career received another recent boost when Tirdad Derakhshani of The Philadelphia Inquirer recommended, “…his intense and sometimes far-out live performances…” as a top pick in its Best Bets section.
Equally at home on the concert stage or in the teaching studio. His drumset playing has been described as, “…very soulful,” by renowned bassist Will Lee, and jazz legend Dave Brubeck stated that Sean’s drumming, “… sounds like it should-- it swings!” To date, The Sean J. Kennedy Quartet has released two critically acclaimed CDs: Road to Wailea, and Queen Anne's Revenge. As stated in a recent review on Jazzreview.com, Kennedy’s quartet is “creatively new, but built on solid foundations of traditional jazz.”
As a freelance drunset artist he has performed on NBC television numerous times, opened for Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia, performed at Citizen's Bank Park for the Philadelphia Phillies, and does frequent recording session work through-out the Philadelphia area for various singer-songwriters and organizations. Kennedy has also been able to record and perform live with some of the world’s top jazz, classical and rock musicians, including Will Lee, Bob Mintzer, Sandip Burman, Gerald Veasley, Tommy Tallarico, Liberty DeVitto, Richie Cannata, Ricky Byrd, Frank DiBussolo, Donald Nally and the late Dr. Frederick Fennell.
Since 2005 Kennedy has been the principal drumset player with The Philadelphia Boys Choir and Chorale, and can be heard on their new CD Celebrate the Sounds of the Season. In the fall of 2009 Kennedy was invited to perform with the critically acclaimed Video Games Live Orchestra, making stops in Philadelphia at The Kimmel Center’s Verizon Hall and in New York City, on Broadway, at the legendary Beacon Street Theatre. Other prestigious venues which Kennedy has performed at include The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington D.C, Avery Fischer Hall at Lincoln Center, in New York City, The Music Center at Strathmore in Bethesda, Maryland, World Café Live, Chris Jazz Café, and The Academy of Music in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
With the encouragement and discipline of his parents, Seán started playing the piano at the age of eight. Upon entering high school in 1985, he was drawn to the percussion instruments and received rudimental drumming instruction as a member of the marching band drumline. During this period, he started listening to the recordings of Gene Krupa, Joe Morello, Philly Joe Jones, Ed Shaugnessy, Buddy Rich, Steve Gadd, Liberty DeVitto, David Garibaldi, Neil Peart, Ringo Starr and Irv Cotler. Many hours were spent listening, absorbing, and learning the techniques and styles of these masters, with the help of Atlantic City drummers, Raymond Deeley and Roy Rakszawski. By 1987, Seán had successfully transferred from the piano to fulltime study of the drumset.
While still in high school, Seán found work as a sideman on drums and percussion to be abundant. Under the guidance of Philadelphia woodwind session player, Gary Zimmaro, Seán began playing in a variety of pit orchestras and stage bands throughout the Philadelphia region. This freefall approach to learning to sight-read, play all styles - especially swing and Latin - and ascertain how to contend with a wide range of musicians, proved invaluable throughout Seán’s career.
In the early 1990s, Seán began playing with a variety of rock/funk groups in effort to expand his already broadening musical vocabulary. Community carnivals, dances and parties were all part of the routine for these bands. In 1994, Seán landed a full-time playing job in Allentown, Pennsylvania at Dorney Park and Wildwater Kingdom playing in a rock band 6 days a week. The group primarily played cover versions of 50’s and 60’s tunes. Richer than the first sweet taste of being paid as a fulltime professional musician, was the opportunity to meet other serious, young musicians from across the country, and share musical ideas and experiences both onstage and off. Among one of the many musicians whom Seán worked with was saxophonist, Erin Stroup, who would become a longtime collaborator.
Kennedy is a graduate of the West Chester University School of Music where he was awarded a B.S. in Music Education and an M.M. in Percussion Performance, and studied drumset with the late Ron DiStefano at Temple University, mallet percussion with Christopher Hanning, and Timpani with Joe Goebel at WCU.
Carl Fischer Music Publishing has released two drumset text books co-authored by Kennedy and Liberty DeVitto. The first, Camp Jam: Rock Solid Drums is an easy-to-follow, step-by-step guide to improving drumming and overall musicianship, and the official drum curriculum at Camp Jam locations around the country. The second is for former drummers who miss jamming on the kit, entitled I Used to Play Drums: An Innovative Method for Adults Returning to Play.
In addition to performing, Kennedy has been teaching drums and percussion for nearly two decades and maintains a busy private studio. At home in the Philadelphia area, he is a secondary level instrumental music teacher, as well as a college-level music instructor. As a sought-after composer, he has also been commissioned on numerous occasions to create regional and state-level audition pieces. Kennedy is also an active clinician and festival adjudicator presenting master classes for students in elementary through the university level. Recent clinic stops have included the Berks Jazz Festival in Reading, Pennsylvania and Fairfield-Ludlow High School’s Jazz Night Festival in Fairfield, Connecticut.
Sean J. Kennedy is an Artist Endorser for Zildjian Cymbals, Vic Firth Drumsticks, Casio Keyboards and Evans Drumheads.