John White

Associate Professor, Music Theory, History Composition
School: School of Music, Theatre, and Dance
Phone: 607-274-3297
Office: James J Whalen Ctr for Music 3202, Ithaca, NY 14850
Specialty: Music Theory

Dr. John W. White, Associate Professor of Music Theory, History, and Composition and Director of the IC Jazz Vocal Ensemble

  • Ph.D. in Music Theory, Indiana University (minor field concentrations in Music History/Literature and Ethnomusicology); served as Coordinator/Instructor of Twentieth-Century Music Skills from 1988 to 1991; received the Lieber Award for Distinguished Teaching in 1990; Dissertation: "Processes of Structuring in Select Free Improvisations of the Chamber Ensemble "Oregon."
  • M.M. in Music Theory, Ithaca College.
  • B.M. in Theory/Composition and B.M. in Piano Performance, University of Northern Colorado; received the Dale Dykins Award in Composition, 1980.
  • Co-developer of the western beat-oriented system of rhythm solfegeTAKADIMI. (Note: this is not the same as the rhythmic systems from either North or South India.) See the following source (from Journal of Music Theory Pedagogy10: 7–30): Takadimi: A Beat-Oriented System of Rhythm Pedagogy
  • Author of articles in The Journal of Music Theory Pedagogy,  College Music Symposium, and ex Tempore.
  • Presenter at numerous national and regional conferences on the analysis of free improvisation, the music of the chamber ensemble Oregon, rhythm skills pedagogy, improvisation pedagogy, and the analysis of vernacular musics with regard to semiotic codes and cultural values.

Throughout his years of association with Ithaca College, John W. White has taught a number of courses including select graduate courses in analysis, all courses in the undergraduate theory and sightsinging sequence, Introduction to Musical Styles, form and analysis, analysis of 20th-century music, advanced aural skills, class piano, and other specialized courses such as Choral Arranging, Orchestration, Special Topics: Analysis and Performance, History of the American Musical Theater, and Music in Society.  He is also a regular faculty member of the Ithaca College Summer Piano Institute and Summer Music Academy.  In the past few years, he has been increasingly active as a clinician at workshops devoted to jazz theory and improvisation.

John remains active as a professional pianist specializing in diversity and is equally at home in the worlds of jazz, classical, and popular music. Highlights of his performing experience include:  duo and small group collaborations with jazz vocalist and free improviser Rhiannon; appearances with jazz vocalist Kim Nazarian (of the New York Voices) and jazz instrumentalists performers Wycliffe Gordon, Tony Baker, and Paul Hanson;  workshop accompaniment for Dr. Barbara Baker (choral director and scholar of Black Gospel music); accompaniment for and free-improvisation collaboration with choreographer Jeanne Goddard; and frequent freelance appearances with numerous musicians in the upstate New York region spanning numerous vernacular styles (jazz, funk, R&B, soul, latin, rock). Recently John concluded a 16-year tenure as the Music Director and Organist for St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Ithaca, NY. 

In 2016 John became the Director of the Ithaca College Jazz Vocal Ensemble. Established in the 1970s by the late David Riley, distinguished professor of Music Education, over the years the IC-JVE has included numerous members that went on to establish successful careers in the music profession. In the mid-1980s, Dave Riley’s direction brought the IC Vocal Jazz Ensemble international acclaim—which included a 1986 invitational alumni group formed to tour high-profile European Jazz festivals—and his teaching provided training for many jazz educators and performers, including three founding members of the Grammy Award winning New York Voices. John White toured with this 1986 IC-JVE invitational alumni group as rhythm section pianist, which makes his return as Director especially meaningful. (John's undergraduate work and experience with the Vocal Jazz Ensemble tradition at the University of Northern Colorado, under the direction of Gene Aitken, continues to be a tremendous foundation for his current duties at Director of IC-JVE.)