Wisconsin jazz pianist performs Feb. 13

Award-winning jazz pianist John Harmon of Winneconne, Wisconsin, will perform at Ripon College Feb. 13 as part of the Chamber Music and Jazz at Ripon series.

The performance will begin at 7:30 p.m. in Demmer Recital Hall, C.J. Rodman Center for the Arts. Ticket information is available by calling 920-748-8126.

Harmon, known as “Wisconsin’s Gentle Poet of Jazz,” first developed a love of music while listening to his dad’s jazz records as a child. His mother also played the piano, and Harmon and his mother enjoyed playing together during his childhood.

That love of music, and jazz in particular, stayed with Harmon throughout his life. He also is renowned as a composer. When it comes to composing, Harmon says, his main goal is “to get it right. (Composing is) “a personal adventure. It’s very subjective. You make the decisions and hope, overall, they were the right decisions.”

Harmon says the process of composing is akin to that of time-lapse photography, as both start out as small pieces and grow into a work of art. “You work measure by measure, not by note,” he says. “It’s fascinating to see it all come together.”

While composing, Harmon guides himself with a phrase from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s novella The Little Prince: “It is only with the heart that one can see clearly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” In a nutshell, Harmon says, he trusts his initial instinct and follows his heart.

Harmon has performed in Russia, Japan, Bermuda and all around United States. He also plays Thursday nights at the Manila Resto, a Filipino restaurant in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. During his travels, Harmon has collaborated with other artists, such as Wisconsin vocalist Janet Planet.

He enjoys working both in tangent with others and swinging solo. Playing with others is a spontaneous and adaptive process that can be very fun and exciting; but playing alone also is an exciting challenge, Harmon says.

“(A) piano is an orchestra at your fingertips,” he says. “You shouldn’t have to depend on drum and bass to swing. That’s the ultimate challenge of playing alone.”

At his performances, Harmon says, “Whatever the subject matter or the titles are, I’d like to have the quality consistent and be apparent to the listener.” He says that all music, whether the listener enjoys that particular style or not, can be valued by the amount of sincerity put into it.

At the Ripon concert, Harmon will play several of his own compositions as well as some “standard repertoire.”

Megan Sohr ’18
Oshkosh, Wisconsin

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