John Zdechlik

From Wind Repertory Project
John Zdechlik


John P. Zdechlik (2 May 1937, Minneapolis, Minn. – 21 May 2020, White Bear Lake, Minn.) was an American composer, conductor, performer and clinician.

He was born to a father who emigrated from Poland in 1910, though the surname Zdechlik is Czech in origin. Zdechlik had musical influences growing up - his grandfather was a church organist, his father regularly played recordings of Beethoven and Victor Herbert, and his parents enrolled him in piano lessons at age six. Zdechlik's parents encouraged musical pursuits but did not pressure him. In high school, Zdechlik began playing E-flat alto horn before switching to trumpet. During his high school years he also began to take an interest in jazz, and began to compose jazz band arrangements under the tutelage of his trumpet instructor Harry Strobel and local arranger and jazz pianist Herb Pilhofer.

Dr. Zdechlik earned his Ph.D. in theory and composition from the University of Minnesota, where he studied with Paul Fetler and Frank Bencriscutto for whom Zdechlik served as assistant for several years.

Thanks to Bencriscutto, Zdechlik's first major success as a composer came in 1969. Bencriscutto had been commissioned to write an original work for the Concordia College Band in Saint Paul, Minnesota, but was too busy to fulfill the commitment. The commissioner, Leon Titus, agreed to have Zdechlik fill in as the composer, resulting in Zdechlik's first major compositional success, Psalm 46.

In 1970, Zdechlik began his tenure at Lakewood Community College (now Century College) in White Bear Lake, Minnesota, where he served for nearly three decades as conductor, professor, music department chair, and resident composer until his retirement in 1997.

Soon thereafter, a commission from Bloomington Jefferson High School in Bloomington, Minnesota resulted in Zdechlik's most famous work, Chorale and Shaker Dance, which premiered at the Music Educators National Conference in 1972. Zdechlik claims to have guest conducted the piece over 500 times in his career.

Owing to his early success as a composer for the concert band medium, the vast majority of Zdechlik's future output was also for bands, most of which are commissions from high school or college ensembles. Dozens of his works have been published by Neil A. Kjos Music Company, and Zdechlik has conducted extensively throughout the United States, Japan, and Europe.

Zdechlik was elected to the American Bandmasters Association in 1989.

Works for Winds


  • Camphouse, Mark, editor. (2007). Composers on Composing for Band. Volume 3. Chicago: GIA Publications. pp. 305–327.
  • John Zdechlik website
  • John Zdechlik, Wikipedia Accessed 23 May 2020
  • Miles, Richard B., and Larry Blocher. 2010. Teaching Music through Performance in Band. Volume 1. Chicago: GIA Publications. pp. 446.
  • Pasquale, John D. "Psalm 46." In Teaching Music through Performance in Band. Volume 6, edit. & comp. by Richard Miles, 408-415. Chicago: GIA Publications, 2007.