John Walker Biography

“A spine-tingling piece of unrepentant programme music, performed here quite electrifyingly.  Mr. Walker shows a masterly use of the instrument … and had me on the edge of my seat.”  (Organists’ Review)

“Just how deliciously expressive the organ can be was amply evident.” (Scott Cantrell, The Kansas City Star)

JOHN WALKER has performed in recital and as concerto soloist throughout North America, Europe, and Asia. He has performed three times at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, and other cathedrals and churches in Europe and the U.S. In Taiwan he has performed frequently at the National Concert Hall in Taipei and as soloist with the National Symphony Orchestra. He has appeared frequently with the San Francisco Symphony under the baton of Michael Tilson Thomas, notably as soloist in Lou Harrison’s avant-garde Concerto for Organ with Percussion Orchestra.

“A lot of people can play the notes, but there’s always something indefinable in John’s playing,” remarked Frederick Swann, past president of the AGO and Walker’s predecessor at the Riverside Church in New York City. “It’s playing that can reach out to people. John always understands the music he’s performing. He seems to have a way of projecting the music that enables the people to know what the music is saying. He doesn’t put himself out in front. The music always comes first.”

A profound practitioner of the art of sacred music, John Walker is minister of music emeritus at Brown Memorial Park Avenue Presbyterian Church in Baltimore, following distinguished tenures at the Shadyside Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh, the Riverside Church in New York City, and First Methodist Church in Palo Alto, Calif.

Walker is the immediate past president of the American Guild of Organists (2014–2016). As president, he led the organization representing more than 15,000 members. He was vice president for six years and treasurer for four. In addition, he coordinated two regional conventions and was dean of the San Jose and New York City AGO chapters. He was the first director of the Task Force on the New Organist, which conceived and implemented the highly successful Pipe Organ Encounters program, now occurring annually throughout the U.S. and abroad.

A Fellow (FAGO) of the American Guild of Organists, Walker is professor of organ performance at Baltimore’s Peabody Institute. Previous appointments include the music faculty of the Manhattan School of Music, where he was organ department chair; Duquesne University; Westminster College; and San Jose State University. He holds the doctor of musical arts degree from Stanford University as well as two master of music degrees cum laude from American Conservatory of Music in Chicago. In 1999 he was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to teach and to perform in Taiwan. In 2015 he was visiting professor at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music, and in 2017 he adjudicated international competitions in organ performance in both Taipei and Shanghai, marking his seventeenth professional visit to Asia.