Artistic Staff

Kirk Wilke, Music Director and Co-Founder

Kirk Wilke began his musical studies at the age of three on the piano and on the trumpet at five. Mr. Wilke has a Bachelor of Music Education from the Eastman School of Music with an emphasis in trumpet performance. In the 1990s, Mr. Wilke began his conducting career, first earning a Master of Music in Conducting from George Mason University and then an Artist Diploma in Conducting from the Cleveland Institute of Music. Principal teachers include Dick Jones (Eastman), Anthony Maiello (George Mason), and Carl Topilow and Louis Lane (Cleveland Institute of Music). He has also studied trumpet performance at McGill University, studying with the principal trumpet of the Montreal Symphony, Jim Thompson.

In 1986, he became the Director of Bands at McDonough High School in Pomfret, Maryland, where he directed the marching band, jazz band, and several school musicals. In 1989, he joined The Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps in Fort Myer, Virginia. He then began the development of a new one valve bugle in 1992 and began composing for the ensemble, where his music is still being performed today.

In 1999 he was named the Music Director of the Washington Symphony Orchestra and, in 2000, he was a founding member and Music Director of the Rappahannock POPS Orchestra, a position he held for over 15 years. In 2001, he was awarded a fellowship to the Aspen School of Music to study conducting, where he worked with David Zinmann, Murray Sidlin, and other prominent orchestral and opera conductors.  Shortly thereafter, he gained international recognition conducting the Shangdong Symphony Orchestra in China to critical acclaim. Other conducting appearances include the Fredericksburg Festival of the Arts and the Capital Chamber Orchestra. Currently Mr. Wilke is the Orchestra Conductor of the Lone Star College orchestra in Houston.

Mr. Wilke has continued his piano and trumpet studio for over 30 years and continues to teach lessons in the greater Houston area.  His students have frequently won awards at local and regional competitions in the Washington, D.C. area.  Outside of music, he is an avid skier and has been a ski instructor at Whitetail Resort for the last 4 years.

Michael Drapkin, Principal Clarinetist, Composer-In-Residence, Board President and Co-Founder

Michael Drapkin has enjoyed a career as a music performer, symphony orchestra clarinetist, composer, arranger, publisher, music retailer, educator, clinician and adjudicator. As a clarinetist, he was a member of the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra, as Associate Principal and Bass Clarinet, New York City Opera Touring Company as Principal Clarinet and Lake George Opera Festival (now Opera Saratoga) as Principal Clarinet. Drapkin has performed with the New Jersey Symphony, the Rochester Philharmonic, the Portland Symphony, the Long Island Philharmonic, the Brooklyn Philharmonic, the Colorado Springs Philharmonic, New York City Ballet and with conductors Leonard Bernstein, Seiji Ozawa, Michael Tilson Thomas, Neville Marriner, Leonard Slatkin, Lucas Foss, Christopher Keene, Klaus Tennstedt, Frederick Fennell, and many more celebrated orchestras and maestros. He has spent summers playing at Aspen and at Tanglewood as a Berkshire Music Center fellow, and was Solo Clarinetist and Executive Director of Music Amici, Rockland County, NY’s oldest professional chamber music group and one of the finest in the New York City area, and performed with them in Carnegie Hall. Drapkin moved to Sarasota, Florida recently, and will be performing there with the Chamber Orchestra of Sarasota, the Venice Symphony and with his klezmer band Yiddish Cowboys. He is also Co-founder, President, Principal Clarinet and Composer-In-Residence with the nascent Cypress Chamber Orchestra – a professional chamber orchestra in the Houston, Texas area.

Mr. Drapkin is internationally known in the clarinet world as author of the Symphonic Repertoire for the Bass Clarinet series – excerpt books Volumes One, Two and Three, and his transposed parts books Volumes Four and Five, which were tested in 53 professional orchestras in the US ranging from the New York Philharmonic to the San Francisco Symphony, and internationally from La Scala to Reykjavík. His books have become standard literature for generations of bass clarinetists worldwide and are distributed by Carl Fischer Music and sold at his eCommerce website at  He also released two books for the clarinet: “How to Work on Clarinet Reeds,” and “Drapkin’s Book of Clarinet Calisthenics,” and is halfway through publishing his series of major public-domain clarinet concerti arranged for clarinet and string quartet.

Drapkin founded and presented the Brevard Conference on Music Entrepreneurship (BCOME) for two summers at the Brevard Music Festival in North Carolina, attracting as attendees professional musicians, industry professionals, college music faculty and deans from as far away as Singapore. For BCOME, he was awarded $100,000 in grants from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation – the nation’s largest entrepreneurship foundation – and was one of their first music grantees ever. For his efforts with BCOME, Drapkin was a finalist for Best Non-Profit CEO for The Ten Awards – the “Academy Awards of New York Business,” an annual selection of ten companies and individuals in the greater New York business community that display extraordinary leadership and innovation to improve their business. He has delivered keynote speeches, lectures and master classes across the U.S. including Eastman, Juilliard, Northwestern and the California Institute for the Arts.

Drapkin served as a member of the Board of Directors of the Brooklyn Phil, which implemented one of the most progressive community-based models for symphony orchestras in the United States: the Brooklyn Model.

Following the Wall Street adage of eat what you kill, Drapkin developed his own klezmer band Yiddish Cowboys in Austin, Texas, which released a CD on iTunes. He featured them in the Classical Crossover showcase he ran for South by Southwest in 2010 and 2011, where he brought bands from around the world that are classically trained and have crossed over to the mainstream and brought their virtuosity with them.

Drapkin was a scholarly member of the College Music Society, which represents college music faculty worldwide. He was appointed chair of their Careers Outside the Academy Committee three times, and led a pre-conference seminar on entrepreneurship for them in Atlanta. He also has been a member of the Board of Directors and a keynote speaker for their Southwest Chapter, and made presentations at the CMS National Conference annually for 13 years.

For 20 years Drapkin has been a music judge and chief judge at high school marching band contests around the country for US Bands, where he judged local, regional, state and national contests in 11 states. He has also been concertmaster of five community concert bands. Mr. Drapkin is a Selmer Artist. He also plays a mouthpiece custom made for him by Franklin Cohen.

Michael Drapkin is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music where he studied with Stanley Hasty, toured Japan with the Eastman Wind Ensemble under Donald Hunsberger, and played Principal Clarinet in the Eastman Philharmonia under David Effron. He also studied clarinet with Gary Gray, Charles Bay and Harold Wright; klezmer with Sid Beckerman. He is currently a Ph.D. Candidate/Researcher at Leiden University in the Netherlands where he is working remotely on his dissertation Restructuring Classical Music.

In addition to Drapkin’s seminal books for the bass clarinet, he has been a prolific composer/arranger. His Suite of Old Yiddish Melodies for concert band was premiered by the Wind Ensemble at the North Carolina School of the Arts, his John Dowland Suite for Band was premiered by the Manhattan Wind Ensemble, his Gershwin – Walking the Dog for clarinet and band was premiered by the Rockland County Concert Band, The Rabbi Chaplain’s March was premiered by the Navy Band of the West and has soloed his Tempest Hora with numerous bands. He also recently completed his Der Rosenkavalier Suite for Band, Three Tallis Songs for Band and My Resting Place based on an old Yiddish song. Drapkin has been composing arrangements for two clarinets and bass clarinet since he was in college, and they span repertoire from orchestra, band, opera, marches and other genres, and have been published as two volumes across over 56 pieces, 12 books and 1400 pages of music. Michael’s bass clarinet books are published by Northeastern Music Publications, and his entire catalog was distributed by Carl Fischer/Theodore Presser worldwide. You can see all of his compositions at