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John Tafoya

Professor of Music (Percussion); Chair, Department of Percussion

Contact Information:
East Studio Building, JS025



  • M.M., Master of Music, Indiana University, 1989
  • B.M., Bachelor of Music, Indiana University, 1985

John Tafoya is a professor of percussion and chair of the Department of Percussion at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music. He served as principal timpanist of the National Symphony Orchestra from 1999 to 2007. He has held previous principal timpani positions with the American Wind Symphony, National Repertory Orchestra, Owensboro Symphony (Ky.), Evansville Philharmonic Orchestra (Ind.), and Florida Philharmonic Orchestra. He has also performed with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, and Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

Tafoya has presented numerous master classes and clinics at universities across the United States and Canada. He was a featured clinician at the Percussive Arts Society International Convention (PASIC) in 2002, 2007, and 2011. His website,, is accessed by thousands of percussion students and professional players each month. He has served on the music department faculties at the University of Evansville, Kentucky Wesleyan College, Florida International University, and the University of Maryland. He is the author of two orchestral timpani repertoire books: “The Working Timpanist’s Survival Guide” (2004), published by Carl Fischer, and “Beyond the Audition Screen” (2011), distributed by Hal Leonard.

Tafoya performed on the award-winning recording of Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 by the Florida Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of James Judd and on orchestral recordings by the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra and the National Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Leonard Slatkin. He can also be heard on the American Wind Symphony Orchestra’s CD Concertos All and Sundry performing Kaoru Wada's Concertante for Timpani, Percussion, and Winds under the direction of Robert Austin Boudreau. Tafoya also participated on the 1987 Summit Brass CD, All American Brass, on the Pro Arte label and on the 1992 Arkay CD of William Albright’s Music for Organ and Harpsichord, featuring organist Douglas Reed.

Tafoya has worked under many prestigious conductors, including Marin Alsop, Vladimir Ashkenazy, James Conlon, Jiri Belohlavek, Rafael Fruhbeck de Burgos, Christoph von Dohnanyi, Valery Gergiev, Christopher Hogwood, Lorin Maazel, Mstislav Rostropovich, Leonard Slatkin, Osmo Vanska, John Williams, Hugh Wolff, and David Zinman.

He proudly endorses American Drum Manufacturing Co., Avedis Zildjian Company, Grover Pro Percussion, Remo Inc., and Yamaha Corporation.

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