Introducing the band

On Piano: John Zahn

John Z.
John is the founder of the band. His musical education started at age 9 with 6 years of piano lessons at a Catholic grade school where he also played flute in the school band and later in the Beaver Dam High School band. Music then took a back seat for college, military service, and earning a PhD in Engineering Mechanics at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, WI. After 6 years of teaching Engineering at the University of Wisconsin he joined the U.S. Forest Service, where he worked for 30 years as a research engineer. He retired in 1992, bought a grand piano, and soon after, took up the saxophone as well and joined a "New Horizons" band (an organization that serves retirees by engaging them in music). From there he persuaded a few friends to form a small band, primarily so he could learn the art of arranging for small jazz ensembles. He studied the works of great arrangers by reorchestrating their classic big band arrangements into 7-piece versions. That group performed in various gigs around Madison for 3 years (they were the first group to play a gig in Madison's new Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Convention Center after its grand opening in 1996). In 1999 he moved to Arizona where he joined the Tucson Concert Band on alto saxophone and, in 2000, recruited musicians from that band to form the Retro Swing 7. He has continued to expand the band's library with new 7-piece orchestrations until it now has over 400 numbers. Since arriving in Arizona he has played sax or piano in four big bands (Big Band Sounds, Green Valley Stage Band, Big Band Memories, and the Rhythm Gang), two concert bands (Tucson and Green Valley), the Sonoran Winds, the Music Samplers, and the River Road Ramblers as well as subbing in various other groups.