Johannes Wallmann was a teenager in Vancouver Island, Canada when he heard the music that would shape his life. The likes of Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Herbie Hancock made such an impression on Wallmann that he decided to devote his life to jazz.
Wallmann was hired as the director of jazz studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in June. He holds the John and Carolyn Peterson Chair in Jazz Studies, named for an endowment gift from John Peterson, who with his late wife Carolyn has been a long-time supporter of the arts — and particularly music — in Madison.
Wallmann, who studied jazz piano and composition at Berklee College of Music in Boston and New York University, has toured all over the world and recorded four albums as a bandleader and more as a sideman. When he decided to emphasize the teaching side more, he earned a Ph.D. in jazz studies from NYU, and then took a job building a jazz program at California State University, East Bay.
Welcome, Johannes! Why are you most excited to be at UW-Madison?
It starts with the location: Madison is a gorgeous place that has all the conveniences of a mid-size city – easy transportation, and a strong sense of community – but punches far above its weight class in terms of cultural and musical offerings.
What courses will you teach?
Jazz ensembles, jazz composition and arranging, and applied jazz piano.
What can students expect in the classroom?
Most of my teaching will be directing small and large jazz ensembles. I look at rehearsals as opportunities to model the types of situations students will encounter in their professional lives, to provide context for the music students are performing, and to guide students as they sharpen their decision-making processes.
What is your favorite music to listen to?
Some of my biggest jazz piano influences are Herbie Hancock, McCoy Tyner, Chick Corea, Keith Jarrett, Thelonious Monk, Oscar Peterson, Don Grolnick, and Brad Mehldau; other jazz artists that I love include Miles Davis, Wayne Shorter, Joe Henderson, Kenny Wheeler, Thad Jones, Michael Brecker, Dave Holland, Dave Douglas … the list goes on and on.
What is your favorite song to play on the piano?
Whatever song I’m playing is my favorite at that moment. I compose, too, so at this point, I very much enjoy getting to play my own music.
What are your interests outside of work?
Aside from my musical interests, I play amateur ice hockey. Moving here from northern California, and prior to that, New York City, I’m just amazed at the number of ice rinks around Madison!