John Wise

Keyboard, Band Director

When did you begin making music?

My family sang gospel music in the midwest while I was growing up. I thought I was singing with them from the time I was about 5 or 6, but my brother later told me that my microphone was never plugged in. (Of course, he also told me I was adopted and several other things… Brothers!)

John Wise
John Wise

I began studying the piano at Heidelberg Conservatory in Tiffin, Ohio, when I was about 8, but never really progressed until we moved to the inner-city of Columbus, Ohio. I had a little trouble adjusting to city life, and after a few life-threatening experiences, I decided to spend more time inside. Music became a way to occupy my time and express how I was feeling – And soon helped me find my niche at school!

I continued my musical training at the Fort Hayes School for the Performing Arts, studying instrumental performance during my junior and senior years of high school. My primary teacher at the time was Hank Marr, a noted jazz organist. Kevin Turner, a wonderful jazz guitarist who went on to play with Ray Charles and others, was a fellow-student.

What is the largest audience for which you’ve played?

It was most likely a July 4th talent contest on the Nato base at Sigonella, Sicily in the 1980’s. I’m not sure of the count, but it was a beautiful Mediterranean day. The BEST audience I’ve played for more recently would be the final night of Wing Fest on Tussey Mountain in 2007, when I was playing with Cliff Turner and the Afterburners.

Any final thoughts?

First, I need to thank Cliff Turner and his band (the Afterburners) for giving me the opportunity to get back into music after several years of concentrating on my “day jobs”. My wife, Karen, has also been very supportive through rehearsals and weekend gigs.

Finally, The Gill Street Band feature the best horn section in Centre County – You have GOT to hear this group!