Don Kinnier: Popular Musician • Classical Humorist

Don Kinnier
Don Kinnier at The Capitol Theater Wurlitzer

Don Kinnier has been called “the premier silent film accompanist in the northeastern United States”. He has become well known to concert, comedy and silent film audiences throughout the Delaware Valley and beyond and is internationally recognized from concert performances that have taken him from Boston to Buenos Aires and from Toronto to Taipei. Don's programs are easy-going, fun and contain a large dose of good-natured humor, both verbal and musical. His skill in accompanying both silent film and live improvisational comedy is without equal.

“As it is the real mortar of the evening is laid by keyboard wizard Don Kinnier. Kinnier is uncannily on top of every situation—scripted or improvisational. Not even the audience challenge of an impromptu Japanese Opera… is beyond the grasp of this formidable musician. His contribution to choreographed exercises goes well beyond accompaniment.”
     - from a review of “Comedy Works” by Lancaster Intelligencer-Journal entertainment editor Jim Ruth

“If you've never experienced a silent film with Don at the helm of some sort of keyboard then you don't know what you're missing. I've been following his career ... and no one does Silents like he does. He's does a beautiful dance between what's happening on the screen and the music he selects to enhance the film. I have shuddered through Phantom of the Opera... cheered through many a Harold Lloyd escapade, laughed through Chaplin's Gold Rush and wept through City Lights.”
     - Sandi Joy, comedienne

Though classically trained in Philadelphia in the 1950’s (by Elizabeth Sharkey of the Wurlitzer Company, David F. M. Ulrich, organist at The Church of the New Jerusalem in Philadelphia and Harry Greer, organist at Trinity Memorial Episcopal Church), Don ultimately decided not to "go for baroque" and turned to the theater organ and various other keyboard instruments as an outlet for his musical expression. Don’s mother always insisted it was the fact that the G.I Jive was playing in the delivery room at his birth that influenced his musical direction.

In addition to his ongoing work with Montgomery County Community College's Betzwood Film Festival (since 1990) Don has accompanied classic silent films at the Philadelphia Film Festival and continues providing original scores for a broad selection of unique silent films at The Secret Cinema's showings at both Moore College of Art and the University of Pennsylvania. More recently Don was named music director of The New Reading Theater Orchestra (a group of professional musicians dedicated to the art of live silent film accompaniment). Don is also providing new scores, and performances of them, for a series of silent films being reissued on DVD by Alpha Video of Philadelphia.

“Don loves old films of all kinds and has a special fondness for the obscure and "forgotten" gems which he says are a great challenge to interpret and accompany. His style of film accompaniment is as authentic as one is likely to experience without the help of a time machine. He draws upon extensive knowledge of music both classical and popular for the themes, motifs, and moods he skillfully blends into a seamless score. It was often the case in the silent days that certain accompanists were so popular that people went to hear them play no matter what film was showing. Don has managed to add that bit of authenticity to his list of accomplishments as well.”
     - Joseph P. Eckhardt, film historian

Partial list of performance venues:

Auditorium Theater RTOSRochester NY 1968-2004
Calvary Lutheran Church  Laureldale, PA2010-Present
Colonial Theater Phoenixville, PA 1979-1995
Lansdowne Theater Lansdowne, PA 1963-1969
Longwood Gardens  Kennett Square, PA1979-Present
Montgomery County Community CollegeBlue Bell, PA1990-Present
Old Pine Street Presbyterian Church Philadelphia, PA 2009-Present
Philadelphia Film FestivalPhiladelphia, PA2003-Present
Rice Auditorium FSTOS Catonsville, MD2003-Present
Strand-Capitol Theater York, PA1989-Present
St John’s Lutheran Church Allentown, PA 2007-Present