John Walko is a native of Cleveland, Ohio and moved to San Francisco in 1982 from Montgomery, Alabama. Since 1994 John has been the Organist at First Presbyterian Church of Berkeley and the Artistic Director of their Lenten Organ Recital Series. With the FPCB Chancel Choir he completed three European tours, including Eastern Europe, the Baltic region, and the Balkans. John frequently leads groups on tours of the great organs of Europe. Last summer he led a large group on his sixth organ tour, visiting Amsterdam/Haarlem, Paris, Bordeaux, Toulouse, and San Sebastian, Spain, where he also performed in recital.
As an accompanist, John works with the San Francisco City Chorus, San Francisco Boys Chorus, Diablo Choral Artists/Voices of Musica Sacra, and Bella Musica. He has accompanied and/or been featured with many other choral groups including the National Children’s Choir, Oakland Symphony Chorus, San Francisco Girls Chorus, Baroque Choral Guild, WomenSing, Masterworks Chorale, Santa Cruz University Concert Choir, Cantare Con Vivo, Vox Dilecti, and Berkeley Community Chorus. He assisted composer Carmine Coppola and director Francis Ford Coppola with several film score projects, including extensive preparation of the Oscar-nominated film “Godfather III”. John accompanies the San Francisco Symphony Chorus in the soundtrack of that film.
John has performed as a recitalist at many prestigious venues across the USA and is a Staff Organist at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor. Internationally, he has been a featured soloist in Havana, Rio de Janeiro, Paris, Prague, San Sebastian (Spain) and at the famed Riga Dom in Latvia. In 2009 he was selected as the sole American adjudicator for the Bank Street International Organ Competition in London, where he also played at Canterbury Cathedral, Westminster Cathedral, St. Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey.
John’s primary studies were in Piano, French Horn, and Theory and Composition, and later, Organ and Harpsichord. He studied at the Cleveland Music School Settlement, Cleveland Institute of Music, The Juilliard School, and Huntingdon College. He has studied with many notable teachers, including Harald Rohlig, Marie-Louise Langlais and Marie-Claire Alain (Organ); Gerre Hancock, Christophe Mantoux and François Espinasse (Improvisation), and Lili Kraus (Piano).
John is keenly interested in pipe organs, having worked for four organ companies and as an independent organ consultant. In 2011 he presented a lecture on the French organbuilder Aristide Cavaillé-Coll at the Western Regional Convention of the American Guild of Organists.
John has extensive musical theater experience; in addition to writing a Harold Arlen musical revue, he participated in over 100 musicals, most notably, Side By Side By Sondheim at San Francisco’s Plush Room (428 performances). He worked as a computer tech specialist for Levi Strauss & Co. for 13 years, with projects in Hong Kong and Taipei. His mother Edie and sister Ciel, an acupuncturist, live in Asheville, NC. John lives within walking distance to Calvary Presbyterian Church, sharing his Victorian home with cat Cornelia and Larry Marietta, Director of Music at Old First Presbyterian Church.
John can be reached at Calvary at firstname.lastname@example.org.
John’s first Sunday playing at Calvary will be February 7.