Von Hansen, director of bands at Washburn University, is a jack of all trades. He is a professor, composer, and performer, but even though he wears many hats, his unique trait is his amount of energy, dedication, and skills he uses in the Music Department.
Hansen was born in Hays, Kansas. However, he moved to Topeka when he was 4 and lived in Topeka until he graduated from Washburn University with a Bachelor of Arts in Percussion.
“Washburn is home for me,” said Hansen. “I grew up here, my family is here, and I have a strong connection with Washburn.”
Hansen developed his passion for music at a very young age, which continues today.
“My love for music came from playing music since fourth grade,” said Hansen. “There was always music in my house growing up. My dad was always playing all sorts of different music. I developed a love for a diversity of music.”
Hansen was able to play drums as a child, all because of the cost of the snare drum his parents got him.
“My mom told my [older] brother that he couldn’t play drums because it was going to be too loud, so he picked the trumpet,” said Hansen. “I went in thinking I was going to play the saxophone, but the saxophone was more expensive than the snare drum, so my mom let me play drums.”
Hansen went to school for 11 years. He received his undergraduate at Washburn, his master’s at Central Michigan University, and went to University of Kansas for his doctorate.
“My wife supported me emotionally and financially when I went to school,” said Hansen. “She says now she gets to retire 10 years earlier because she worked while I went to school.”
Hansen wasn’t always sure if he wanted to be a professor, but his desire evolved over time.
“I wasn’t sure if I was going to teach or not,” said Hansen. “I started doing private lessons. It really engaged other people to have the passion for music that I have.”
After his schooling, he taught at Friends University before joining Washburn’s faculty.
“Getting this job was a huge accomplishment for me,” said Hansen. “Getting a college teaching job has a lot of competition, and also having a full-time position at a school that I feel very connected to was the goal.”
Shortly after Hansen came to Washburn, the students developed a great amount of respect for Hansen.
“I think his teaching style is the perfect balance of being serious when necessary, but still able to joke around and be personable with students,” said Daniel Albertson, Washburn percussion major.
Albertson also complimented Hansen’s fresh perspective that he brings to the percussion studio and the university. He said that the music the class is working on is similar to what division one schools are working on, and that is a positive step in expanding the abilities of the studio. Not only do students enjoy Hansen, the faculty do as well.
“He is a good guy, hard worker, and very dedicated to what he does,” said Tom Morgan, a former teacher of Hansen’s and a professor of music at Washburn. “If you give him an assignment, you know he will take care of it.”
Morgan has known Hansen for 20 years. He taught him private lessons in high school, at Washburn, and now is working alongside him. Morgan was the former percussion professor before Hansen was hired.
“It is very gratifying to me to see him take that position because I have watched him blossom from a high school kid to this really great teacher,” said Morgan. “It’s really satisfying to pass off the rings to him.”
Beyond wanting to teach kids to play, he also wants people to be as passionate about music as he is. Hansen said when people perform, it should cause some sort of emotional response.
“Music can describe things that words can’t,” said Hansen.
When Hansen isn’t in class, you can catch him teaching private lessons. But to him it isn’t always about the music.
“With private lessons you can go beyond learning how to play the music,” said Hansen. “A student I taught recently talked with me about how to handle anxiety for some of the session. I have dealt with the same thing, so we talked about how to deal with it.”
Other than being a personable man, and great teacher, Morgan brought up another reason why Hansen was chosen for this position.
“He has great enthusiasm and energy,” said Morgan. “We knew he would come in with energy and try to take this department in a new direction while doing his own thing.”
Outside of teaching at Washburn, Hansen mentioned two things, one was family, and the second, more music.
“I have an 8-year-old and 3-year-old, and I love to spend time with them,” said Hansen. “Outside of Washburn I do a lot of composing, playing and occasionally, when I can, watch a Chiefs game.”
Hansen is also a free-lance writer, people commission him to write pieces for them. He does a lot of electronics, which is making music on the computer, along with an instrument. Hansen has a website full of his work, vonhansenmusic.com.
“I mostly write for percussion,” said Hansen. “Recently one of my works was played in Hong Kong with a contortion of players, which 35 people play. It premiered on Oct. 10. It has also been played in Peru and Argentina.”
Hansen’s ambition for Washburn is enormous, and Morgan and the students believe in Hansen’s ability to revitalize the percussion emphasis at Washburn University.
“My next goal in life is to have Washburn be one of the premiere music and percussion departments in the state, and maybe even in the region,” said Hansen.
Edited by Adam White, Jason Morrison