John Harmon, Composer

John HarmonJohn Harmon’s deep interest in nature, environmental issues, and Native Americans­ provides inspiration for much of his work. His compelling need to raise awareness of Native American culture has inspired him to write six symphonies: Crazy Horse, Wounded Knee, The Legend of SuAnne Big Crow, Standing Rock, Echoes of the Great Plains and Sweetgrass. He has recently begun another large work for the people of Ukraine.

In the early ‘70s, Harmon created the jazz studies program at Lawrence University, Appleton, WI. He later founded and led the award-winning jazz nonet Matrix, which toured the country for nearly 6 years. He recently wrote a book about Matrix and expects it to be released by the fall of 2023. Harmon serves as Composer-in-Residence for the Red Lodge Music Festival, artistic director for Fox Jazz Fest, teaches in Door County at a jazz fantasy camp for adults and (since 1982) has served as music director/composer-in-residence for the First Presbyterian Church in Winneconne, WI.

Notable recognition includes a Wisconsin Academy of Science, Arts, and Letters Fellowship; two honorary doctorates (Lawrence University and Ripon College); Distinguished Service Awards from the Wisconsin School Music Association (MSA) and the International Association of Jazz Educators (IAJE). John was featured in Leonard Feather’s prestigious Blindfold Test for Downbeat Magazine, and appeared as a guest performer on Marian McPartland’s Piano Jazz series.

A native of Oshkosh and graduate of Lawrence University, Harmon studied with jazz pianist, Oscar Peterson and Belgian composer Henri Pousseur earning his Master of Arts in Composition at State University of New York at Buffalo (SUNY). His work combines elements of classical, romantic, and modern music, infusing them with jazz harmonies to create a unique, evocative, distinctly American style. A tireless performer and highly prolific composer, Harmon has been dubbed “Wisconsin’s gentle poet of jazz.”