Musician Feature: Kellen Degnan!

THIS GUY. I don’t know what we love about him more: his artistry or his sheer enthusiasm for Classical Revolution Cleveland’s mission. He’s been integral to our budding JOIN concert series and is a familiar face at our bar shows, always bringing repertoire that’s both interesting and thoughtful. Hurry up and get to know Kellen Degnan!


Hey! Tell us about yourself. I grew up in a suburb of Detroit, Michigan, and I started taking cello lessons at age 5 through a nearby Suzuki program. I joined my first youth orchestra in sixth grade, then went on to get my Bachelors degree in cello performance at the University of Michigan, and my Masters degree in cello performance at Cleveland Institute of Music!

In a city that bustles with independent classical music projects and ensembles, what makes you unique? I’m a bit of a contrarian, so I pride myself on studying and performing repertoire that’s not very well-known. Along that line, one of my highest priorities is the performance of contemporary classical music. I think it’s important to recognize the incredible music that’s being written today, alongside the great classics everybody knows and loves.

Any notable performances, as of late? I hear you’ve had some recent successes! This past summer, I was awarded a position with the Toledo Symphony Orchestra! I was also hired as the Adjunct Instructor of Cello and Suzuki Instructor of Cello at Mercyhurst University in Erie, PA! I start both of those positions in September. I’ll also be pursuing plenty of independent projects, both in Cleveland and elsewhere. I am very excited to be premiering four newly composed pieces on September 9 in the inaugural performances of the newly created Detroit Composers Project. And of course I’m thrilled to continue to be part of the Classical Revolution Cleveland network, especially the JOIN series of concerts!


How far ahead are you looking and planning? What major goals have you set? Want to discuss? I’m going to take this year to settle in and get used to all the juggling between Cleveland, Erie, Toledo, and Detroit. Beyond that, who knows? I’ll probably be in Cleveland for at least a couple more years, though!

Craziest performance memory? Back when I was very fresh to the gigging scene, I had arranged to provide a string quartet for a wedding. When my quartet got there, we ran into another group of musicians… who had been hired for the same wedding. It turns out the wedding coordinator had been getting messages from two different people, but thought we were from the same group. But being inexperienced, I had not written out a contract, and the other group had. So we left. That’s when I learned to always have a signed contract from the client!

What about your most moving or satisfying performance memory? I’ve had many orchestral performances where an audience member has come up to me during intermission or after the performance to tell me how much they enjoyed watching me play, because I look like I’m having so much fun! (Which I am.) Those moments always remind me how easy it is to make a connection through music, and how fortunate I am to be able to reach people in a meaningful way doing something I love!


Favorite non-classical activity? I love to play board games!

Favorite non-classical musician/genre? The Punch Brothers! I’m also a minor connoisseur of video game soundtracks, and I’ve actually written a couple arrangements of video game tunes for string quartet!

What do you love the most about collaborating in Cleveland’s orbit of classical musicians and projects? I love how open and supportive everyone is! There are so many unique projects and people, and the response from the community always seems to be: “Sounds cool!”


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