Ken-ichi Watanabe was born in 1962 in Yonezawa-city of Yamagata-prefecture, Japan. He started conducting and playing the euphonium at the age of 13. He studied the euphonium at the Tokyo University of the Arts (Tokyo Geijutsu Daigaku). The Rotary Foundation Scholarship made him move to the United States to study with distinguished euphoniumist, Dr. Brian Bowman, at the University of Maryland. Then he continued studying for the degree of Doctor of Musical Arts at the Eastman School of Music. He became the principal euphoniumist at the legendary Eastman Wind Ensemble after getting the Master of Music degree at the University of Maryland. As the first Japanese, he won the 4th Leonard Falcone Euphonium Competition in Michigan, USA. The Royal Danish Government Scholarship enabled him to further his studies and activity at the Royal Danish Academy of Music. There he performed many solo and ensemble works.
After his studies as mentioned above, he began his conducting activities such as the regular conductor and director of the Yamaha Symphonic band, one of the top wind orchestras in Japan. He was appointed to be an associate professor of the Hokkaido University of Education in Iwamizawa, Japan, where he served as a head of brass and percussion performance. He founded the contemporary wind orchestra Hokkaido University of Education SUPER WINDS that commissioned and premiered more than 40 challenging works. As a euphonium soloist, he organized a new diversity group called “ENSEMBLE EUDEPHI”. They produce new serious works for the euphonium to create an unexpected future.
Ken-ichi Watanabe is working as the vice president of the JAPANESE SOCIETY for the ART of WIND MUSIC. As the very first founding member, he is actively giving a lot of effort to establish a higher academic status in the wind instrument world in the 21st century.