John Mortensen

John Mortensen, D.M.A.

Professor of Music


John Mortensen is internationally recognized as a leader in the revival of classical improvisation, the system of musical thinking that allows performers to create complex works in real time. In concert Mortensen regularly improvises complete fugues and other pieces in 18th century styles.

He appears frequently as a concert artist and masterclass teacher at colleges and universities in the USA and overseas.

His forthcoming book, The Pianist’s Guide to Classical Improvisation, will be released in 2018, and will be the only comprehensive, modern method on classical improvisation for the advanced pianist.

His students learn a natural and coordinated approach to piano technique, which prevents injury and allows for unprecedented freedom and facility at the keyboard.

Mortensen is committed to educating young musicians for the 21st century and places special emphasis on developing courses that bring improvisation back to the standard college music curriculum.

After his concert in Eisk, Russian Federation, the Russian press wrote that “… for John Mortensen Russia has always been close musically. He plays with especial passion the works of Sergei Rachmaninoff. ‘I don’t speak Russian, I speak Rachmaninoff,’ was heard from the mouth of the pianist during the concert. And truly, during the performance of the work of the great Russian composer, in the hall peoples of different nationalities disappeared — it seemed from the stage sang and wept the Russian soul. The chords of the next Rachmaninoff prelude had not even been played, and the hall was already conquered.”

His publications appear in International Piano, Clavier, College Music Symposium, Piano Pedagogy Forum, and American Music Teacher.

Mortensen studied with Lynne Bartholomew at the University of Michigan and Anne Koscielny and Raymond Hanson at the University of Maryland, receiving his doctorate in piano performance from the latter. He holds National Certification in Piano through the Music Teacher’s National Association, is endorsed as an Ohio Artist on Tour through the Ohio Arts Council, and was recently recognized as an Excellence in Education honoree by the Ohio Senate. In 2015 he was selected for the Fulbright Specialist Roster by the U.S. Department of State. Over the next five years, the Fulbright Specialist program will sponsor him to perform and teach at universities internationally.

A Steinway Artist, he now serves as Professor of Piano at Cedarville University. In 2016 he was named Faculty Scholar of the Year, that institution’s highest award.

Visit his website at

Education and Credentials

  • D.M.A. in Piano Performance and Literature, University of Maryland
  • M.M. in Piano Performance, University of Maryland
  • B.M.A. in Piano Performance, University of Michigan School of Music

Scholarly Works

  • John Mortensen: Improvisations (John Mortensen) Faculty Recitals (2018)
  • An Unauthorized Postscript (John Mortensen) Theme (2006)  
  • Memories of Harold Bauer as a Teacher (John Mortensen) International Piano (2005)  
  • Sweet Fancy Moses (John Mortensen) Music and Worship Faculty Compositions (2013)  
  • Cuinneadh chu Cuileann from Riverdance (John Mortensen) Music and Worship Faculty Compositions (2013)

View a listing of scholarly works in the Cedarville University Digital Commons »


  • Classical and Jazz Piano
  • Improvisation
  • Traditional Irish Music
  • Natural, Co-ordinated Piano Technique