John Schaffer recently retired from the University of Wisconsin, where he served for fifteen years as Director of the Mead Witter School of Music (1997-2012). During his tenure he brought the school to new heights in every measure: quality of faculty and students, national rankings, visibility, and endowments. He raised more than $10 million for music scholarships and endowed professorships, and with then-Chancellor John Wiley, he launched plans for the Hamel Music Center, a new performance facility that opened in late 2019. Schaffer’s numerous initiatives enriched both campus and community, building stronger relations with organizations such as the Independent String Teachers’ Association and the Madison Symphony (establishing further student funding opportunities through the joint residency of the Hunt Quartet).
Schaffer holds a Ph.D. in music theory from Indiana University and a B.M. in classical guitar from Wayne State University. His academic work explored advanced uses of technology for music theory research and pedagogy, and non-formal approaches to the study and cognition of atonal music. He authored numerous articles and two books, Microcomputers and Music (Prentice Hall) and Knowledge-Based Programming for Music Research (A-R Editions). He is the founding director of the Wisconsin Center for Music Technology, Emeritus Editor and founder of the international journal Computers in Music Research, and Member of the NASM Commission on Accreditation. He is a frequent consultant to music programs across the United States and Canada. Prior to his appointment at UW in 1986, he held positions at the University of Windsor (Ontario) and Purdue University.
Schaffer’s contributions toward reinvigorating the local jazz scene were recognized earlier this summer at a benefit concert presented by the Greater Madison Jazz Consortium, which over the past seven years has created an array of popular performance and education programs that reach thousands of youth and adults each year, enriching and invigorating our community. In one of his last initiatives as director, Schaffer established the endowed jazz professorship that brought Johannes Wallmann to the faculty in 2012. With the hire of this dynamic pianist, the program has blossomed, expanding with a number of additional faculty, new student jazz ensembles, and the establishment of a jazz performance major. In returning to the faculty following three terms as director, Schaffer re-focused his teaching on jazz: its history, theory, and performance, developing new courses in the discipline and regularly coaching student jazz ensembles. An active freelance jazz bassist, Schaffer can be heard regularly around town performing at venues such as the Northstreet Cabaret, Café Coda, Delaney’s Steak House, Ottos’s restaurant, and Capital Brewery.