Dr. John L. Whitener began his professional musical career as a percussionist and singer while still in high school in Anchorage, Alaska. He studied percussion and voice performance, as well as Music Education, at the University of Washington in Seattle, receiving both a Bachelor of Arts degree in Music and a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education in 1981. Whitener performed and toured widely in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska singing with a professional men’s vocal quartet and playing drums and percussion with the Jazz Sextet “Second Nature.” His music teaching career spans over 35 years in both instrumental and vocal music, with experience at the elementary, middle and high school levels, as well as a professor in community college and university settings.
Whitener came to Southern California in 1985, studying composition with Dr. MortenLauridsen and pursuing a Masters degree in Music Education at the University of Southern California. In 1987 he began working as an orchestrator and film composer in Hollywood, going on to score several short movies and two full-length feature films. Whitener received his Masters degree from USC in 1995, and in 2007 he completed his Doctoral studies focusing on music education, composition, music history and conducting. While a doctoral student he continued his composition studies with award-winning composer Morten Lauridsen, and also studied composition with the celebrated wind band composer, Dr. Frank Ticheli. In the spring of 2006 Dr. Whitener was hired as the Director of the innovative Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) Music program at the USC Thornton School of Music, where he was responsible for the preparation and training of all public school music teachers enrolled at USC. In 2009 Dr. Whitener went on to complete a Masters of Education degree in Educational Psychology from the USC Rossier School of Education.
In 2004 the California Music Educators Association (CMEA), Southern California division, named Whitener Outstanding Music Educator of the Year. He is an active member and convention presenter in CMEA and the National Association for Music Education (NAfME), and an adjudicator for the Los Angeles School District and SCSBOA. In the spring of 2010 Whitener was awarded the prestigious Bravo! Award given by the Los Angeles Music Center for teaching excellence in Music Education. As a public school teacher he received the PTA Honorary Service Award for his work in Burbank schools, where he was also named 2015 Teacher of the Year at Jordan Middle School. He continues to teach music part-time in the Burbank schools. Dr. Whitener has published an article for the International Society for Music Education and most recently for the Music Educator’s Journal. In summer of 2013 Whitener was invited to guest-lecture at the Shanghai, Xi’an and China Conservatories of Music in mainland China, and also spoke in Ulaan-Baatar, Mongolia on American Music Education practices. In August of 2015, California State University Northridge (CSUN) hired Dr. Whitener as an Associate Professor of Music Education and the Coordinator of Music Education. Whitener was invited to return to China and Mongolia in the summers of 2016 and 2017, where he lectured, conducted research and taught music education methods. He will return to Asia in the summer of 2018. While living in Valley Village with his wife and children Dr. Whitener continues to teach, compose and lecture in the field of Music Education.