Kevin Salfen completed his first two degrees in composition and his Ph.D. in Musicology at the University of North Texas. His Master's thesis was a one-act opera (Paintings and Palaces) about an artist in a fast food restaurant, and his dissertation concerned the early collaborations of Benjamin Britten and writer William Plomer. Major research interests include twentieth-century British music and Japanese noh theater. His writing on Britten has appeared in Music & Letters (February 2011), 19th-Century Music (July 2014), and in two essay collections (Cambridge Scholars, 2017; Boydell & Brewer, 2017). He is currently working on a book-length project about Britten and his librettists. Salfen has presented papers at numerous academic conferences, including the national meeting of the American Musicological Society, and he served as Southwest Chapter Representative to the AMS.
Salfen is committed to making music history accessible and useful. He has written a music appreciation e-textbook, Pathways to Music (Kendall-Hunt, 2017), designed to introduce music through five themes: ritual, emotion, work, art, and politics. He has written program notes for Dallas Chamber Music and the San Antonio International Piano Competition Piano Series. He has also given many pre-performance talks and panel discussions for the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, the DSO's Greenville series, the Nasher Sculpture Center's chamber music series, the Dallas Opera, Opera San Antonio, the San Antonio International Piano Competition's Piano Series, the McNay Art Museum, and the Asia Society Texas Center (Houston). He has been featured on the Dallas Opera's YouTube channel and on the classical radio station WRR, and he was the official blogger for the Van Cliburn Foundation's Sixth International Piano Competition for Outstanding Amateurs.
Salfen, who lived in Japan for almost two years, is a member (and Secretary) of the international troupe Theatre Nohgaku. He has performed in several full noh: on noh flute for Funa Benkei and Sumida River; in the chorus for Funa Benkei, Atsumori, Hagoromo, and the English-language noh Zahdi Dates and Poppies and Blue Moon over Memphis; and as the wakitsure in Zahdi Dates and Poppies and Atsumori. Salfen was executive producer of the multi-year performance and education project Where Rivers Meet, which brought together the classic noh Sumida River, Benjamin Britten's Curlew River, and a newly commissioned "Texas kyogen," Song of the Yanaguana River, by 2015 Texas Poet Laureate Carmen Tafolla. An extensive review of Where Rivers Meet was published in the Fall 2016 issue of Asian Theatre Journal.
Salfen's music has been performed in England, China, and throughout the U.S. He was a finalist for the ASCAP Young Composer Award (Paintings and Palaces) and received a special award for composition from the American College Theater Festival for his score for a production of Euripides' Medea. The noh-influenced theater piece Icarus, for which Salfen wrote the music (to a libretto by Elise Forier-Edie), premiered in Ellensburg, Washington in 2012. It was also performed at the 2012 Asian Studies Development Program National Conference in Seattle and at the 2013 Region VII Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival. Several of his piano pieces have recently been published in the series Made in SA, and his New Year Canticles were performed at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., in July 2016.