Piano professor bringing the love

Sanctuary Series lands instructor for Valentine’s Day.

The piano keys will be aimed at plucking the heart strings for Valentine’s Day this year.

Pianist John Mortensen will perform romantic jazz and classical numbers for the next Sanctuary Series concert at 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 14, at High Street United Methodist Church.

The concert is free, but free-will offerings will be accepted to support the series. The Sanctuary Series offers monthly performances and concerts for no cost.

Mortensen, a professor of piano and director of the piano program at Cedarville University, is a veteran performer at Springfield events.

He’s played at the summer Lunch on the Lawn Series at the Springfield Museum of Art and with an Irish band, as well as being a returnee to the Sanctuary Series.

“It’s a delightful, warm audience that’s up for anything,” Mortensen said of the Sanctuary Series crowd. “I’d just warn them to duck; they never know what might be coming.”

Mortensen often lets spontaneity dictate his set list, never knowing what’s he’s going to play until being in the moment.

He hinted the set would likely include pieces from Rachmaninoff, Gershwin and Duke Ellington.

Mortensen was born in Boston and raised in Michigan. He counts Grigory Sokolov and Oscar Peterson as his classical and jazz pianist heroes, respectively.

When not on the Cedarville campus, Mortensen is often out performing as part of a jazz trio, an Irish band or solo.

He estimates performing about 20 times a year, about once every other week.

“It’s quite a commitment,” he said, although not likely to slow down, at least not through next year, which includes big plans.

These include teaming with a friend to tour as a piano team and possibly going to Russia as part of the Fulbright Scholar Program.

Throughout his travels, Mortensen said he’s appreciative of the Springfield’s community’s role in the arts, calling Sanctuary Series director Chris Moore “a great pillar of the local arts community.”

“Springfield has a real treasure with things like the Sanctuary Series and the Springfield Arts Council.”

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Contact this contributing writer at bturner004@woh.rr.com.