Kenneth Thompkins was appointed Principal Trombone of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra by Neeme Järvi. Prior to this appointment, he held positions in the Buffalo Philharmonic and the Florida Orchestra and performed with the New World Symphony under the direction of Michael Tilson Thomas. A former participant in the Detroit Symphony's African American Fellowship Program, he has been a mentor to several Orchestra Fellows over the years.
Thompkins has been invited to perform and conduct master classes at many music schools, including the Curtis Institute of Music, Mannes College, the University of Michigan, and Interlochen Arts Academy. An active chamber musician, Thompkins performs frequently in recital and is a member of Detroit Chamber Winds & Strings. Thompkins has performed concertos with both the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, New World Symphony and Chineke! Orchestra.
Thompkins has toured Europe with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and has also performed with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, New York Philharmonic, and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. In 2017 Thompkins recorded Sonatas, Songs and Spirituals featuring the music of Alec Wilder, William Grant Still and Philip Wharton. Sonatas, Songs and Spirituals was the winner of The American Prize in Instrumental Performance for 2018/2019. He has also contributed a chapter to The Brass Player's Cookbook: Creative Recipes for a Successful Performance.
Thompkins received his bachelor's degree from Northwestern University, where he studied with the late Frank Crisafulli of the Chicago Symphony, and a Master of Music degree from Temple University, where he studied with Eric Carlson of the Philadelphia Orchestra.