John Koen has been a member of The Philadelphia Orchestra since 1990. He appears regularly on the Orchestra’s Chamber Music series, and performed during Wolfgang Sawallisch’s 1993 Opening Week Festival and the subsequent National Public Radio broadcast of Schumann’s Piano Quintet with Maestro Sawallisch as pianist. Koen has been a frequent guest on the Philadelphia Chamber Ensemble series since 1993 and is also a member of the Mondrian Ensemble and the Network for New Music. He performed with the ensemble 1807 & Friends Chamber Music Society from 1990 to 1993. 

Koen has appeared as a soloist with the New Symphony Orchestra of Sofia, Bulgaria, under the direction of Rossen Milanov. Koen also appears regularly as a soloist with the Lansdowne (PA) Symphony, of which he has been principal cello since 1992. He was a nominee for the 1998 Gay/Lesbian American Music Awards (GLAMA) for his performance of Winter Toccata for solo cello by Robert Maggio, which Koen commissioned, and is featured on a recording of works by Maggio entitled Seven Mad Gods (Composers’ Recordings, Inc.).

Koen studied at the Curtis Institute of Music with David Soyer and Peter Wiley, the original and last cellist (respectively) of the Guarneri Quartet, from 1985 to 1990, graduating with a bachelor of music performance degree; he also studied at the New School of Music with Orlando Cole (1984-85). In 1988 Koen performed in the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival Orchestra as solo cellist on European tours with Christoph Eschenbach, Leonard Bernstein and Sergiu Celibidache, including a television broadcast throughout Eastern Europe from Gorky Park in Moscow with Maestro Bernstein, and as a member of the Salzau Quartet in a performance for President Richard von Weizsäcker of Germany. Koen taught at the College of New Jersey (Trenton) from 1996 to 2001. 

In 2004 Koen received The Philadelphia Orchestra’s C. Hartman Kuhn Award, given to “a musician who has shown both musical ability and enterprise of such character as to enhance the musical standards and reputation of The Philadelphia Orchestra.”

Biography courtesy of The Philadelphia Orchestra
Photo: Jessica Griffin