When a musician is as likely to be found playing a ferocious set of reels in some dark pub in Ireland as he is to be found trading licks with a saxophonist at a hip New York City jazz club — and he is occasionally even seen doing such apparently odd-ball things as exploring Indian classical music on stage at Carnegie Hall — one starts to wonder … what drives him?
Whatever the source of Kittel's inspiration may be, it has led to a dizzying heap of accomplishments and opportunities, one of which is his recent inclusion as a full-time member of the Grammy award-winning Turtle Island Quartet. Just prior to joining Turtle Island Quartet, Kittel was earning his masters degree in jazz performance at the Manhattan School of Music and skipping town on weekends to perform across the country alongside fiddle legends Mark O'Connor and Darol Anger. He's won multiple U.S. National Scottish Fiddle Championships, a total of six Detroit Music Awards for both folk and jazz, and has released three highly acclaimed solo CDs. Upon graduating at age twenty from the University of Michigan Music School, he was awarded the Stanley Medal, their highest honor. And then there's his extensive performance history: venues such as the Kennedy Center, Milwaukee Irish Fest, Detroit Jazz Festival, and "A Prairie Home Companion" as a band leader, and the Detroit Symphony, Vancouver Symphony, and Rochester Philharmonic as featured orchestral soloist.