Pianist Wells Hanley is taking over the job that Bob Hallahan is leaving after this semester. VCU’s Jazz Piano Instructor position is all his, and there’s no one who’s more qualified than him.
VCU’s Director of Jazz Studies Antonio Garcia announced some big news yesterday: pianist Wells Hanley will take over the Jazz Piano Instructor spot that will be vacated by Bob Hallahan after this semester. Hallahan held the adjunct position for 28 years and is now moving on to teach full-time on tenure-track at James Madison University. After announcing that he would be leaving VCU Jazz, Hallahan enthusiastically recommended Hanley as a candidate for the job.
His bio is an impressive one, and surely impressed the panel that considered him for the position. The press release that brought the news summarizes it well:
Wells Hanley holds a Bachelor of Music in classical piano from James Madison University and a Master of Music in jazz piano from The Manhattan School of Music. He has studied jazz piano with Bob Hallahan, Garry Dial, and Fred Hersch and has performed with David Liebman, Chris Potter, Stanley Jordan, Wynton Marsalis, Dick Oatts, Bill Watrous, John D’earth, Tim Reynolds, and Betty Carter’s Jazz Ahead. He has appeared at the Spoleto Music Festival in Italy as well as The North Sea and Montreux Jazz Festivals. In addition to his work as a jazz pianist, Hanley has collaborated with Broadway singers Darius DeHaas and Tom Wopat, as well as rock musicians Brian Vander Ark, Dave Matthews, Carter Beauford, and Boyd Tinsley. Wells has served on the faculty at The New School University and at James Madison University.
Garcia calls Hanley “an extremely versatile musician.” He goes on to say, “In many ways, he epitomizes the breadth of versatility that we encourage in our students; so he’ll not only be a terrific teacher but also a great career coach. He’s a rock-solid jazz pianist with deep roots in both its historical traditions and its newer paths. He’s a gifted collaborator at the keyboard with vocalists in the Broadway and cabaret styles — so sought after in New York City that he performs there several days a month.”
Hanley also often accompanies classical vocalists for their arias at festivals, Garcia adds, and sings, plays drums and guitar, and writes rock tunes.
“That résumé fits well into our VCU Jazz Mission statement,” says Garcia, “which emphasizes that ‘Jazz has long been and will long remain a basis for myriad musics derived from jazz roots; crossing all cultures, genders, and nations; absorbing from and spilling over into classical, rock, popular, and more. Our goal is to prepare our students for that future.’ And we do so by educating our students about the body of work of past jazz masters as a firm basis for the development of the future of music–jazz and beyond.”
As the Jazz Piano Instructor, Hanley will teach private lessons, a Jazz Piano for the Non-Keyboard Major course, and possibly direct a Small Jazz Ensemble. And as Hallahan did, he’ll play an important role in the VCU Jazz Faculty ensemble.