Kohloff was born in 1935 and grew up in Mamaroneck, New York. He attended Juilliard, where he studied with timpanist Saul Goodman. Kohloff later taught at Juilliard himself, and many of his former students, including Joseph Pereira, currently acting principal timpanist with the New York Philharmonic, now play in major orchestras.
Kohloff was principal timpanist with the San Francisco Symphony for sixteen years before joining the New York Philharmonic in 1972, where he played fulltime until his retirement in November 2004.
During his tenure, Kohloff gave the New York premieres of a number of contemporary timpani works, including Franco Donatoni's Concertino for Strings, Brass and Solo Timpani and Siegfried Matthus's Timpani Concerto.
Latzky described Kohloff as a "great personality."
"The timpanist in any orchestra stands out because you see him above the rest of orchestra," Latzky said. "It's such an exposed instrument. But I think his personality matched that very visible position."
Kohloff struggled openly with depression, and publicly spoke about his experiences with electroshock therapy treatments. But his depression did not make him a dour companion, according to Latzky. "On tours when we traveled he had a very bright, jovial personality and knew everyone. He was very much a part of the Philharmonic family. Roland was a great professional, and although he did struggle in his personal life, when he was on the stage with the orchestra he was a consummate professional."
Auditions for a new principal timpanist were recently completed, and the new principal will join the Philharmonic in September, said Latzky.