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A Masterful Rhythm

Von Hansen, assistant professor and composer, hits the right beat with next generation of music students

Von Hansen keeps beat during a percussion ensemble rehearsal

Von Hansen claps to the beat with students during a percussion ensemble rehearsal. Photo by Jeremy Wangler

From The Ichabod - Winter 2024
By Annie Flachsbarth

With a passion for both the academic and musical spheres, Von Hansen, b music ’08, has composed a symphonic career of success. As a Washburn percussion student, he laid the foundation for his future career. Now, as an assistant professor of percussion and a composer, he credits Washburn for helping him shape the future of music – by nurturing budding talents in an institution that once encouraged him.

The Tempo of Success

As an accomplished composer, Hansen has penned around 20 pieces thus far. One of his compositions, “Mortal Coil,” written after the death of his father, was selected for production at the prestigious Percussive Arts Society international convention and was the topic of a recent interview with Hansen on NPR. He is also recording a full-length album of his music – set to be released in vinyl, CD and digital formats. Funded by a grant from Washburn, the album will feature three original percussion ensembles and three solo pieces.

“We’re recording with professional recording artists and friends I know who are amazing players, so it's going to be a top-level recording,” Hansen said. “I'm really excited to get my music recorded at that level.”

Yet, it’s not just his own success that excites Hansen. He takes pride in seeing his students go out and make their own marks in the world of music.

“I strive to see them do better than I have, to see them go out and excel at whatever they wish to pursue,” Hansen said. “Whether they start as music students and then pivot into mass media or impress at the Topeka Symphony, my aim is to provide them with everything they need for success. Witnessing them achieve great things is more than rewarding. It’s absolutely awesome.”

The inspiration Hansen gives percussion students is also what drives them to come to Washburn. Cameron Arnold said it was Hansen who solidified his reason to attend Washburn over other schools.

Von Hansen works with percussion student Cameron Arnold.

(Von Hansen, b music ’08 [right], works with percussion student Cameron Arnold. Photo by Jeremy Wangler)

“Von is not just a great teacher, but an all-around good musician and mentor. Even more importantly, he’s a good human being. He makes the effort to understand us on a personal level, beyond just music,” Arnold said. “His teaching style is versatile, blending different learning approaches to serve us better. With him, I’ve seen myself grow not just as a musician, but as an individual with boosted confidence.”

In fact, one of Hansen’s former percussion students, Daniel Albertson, b music ’21 – a fifth through 12th grade band and middle school choir instructor in Ellinwood, Kansas, and an adjunct percussion professor at Kansas Wesleyan University who was recently named coordinator for the Sunflower Music Festival – credits Hansen with much of his own success.

“He is a very forward-thinking teacher who has always pushed me to reach my potential,” Albertson said. “He encouraged me to grow. In fact, I don’t think I would have gone on to grad school if I hadn’t had him as a teacher.”

Setting the Beat

Hansen began teaching at Washburn in 2019 after earning master’s and doctoral degrees. At Washburn, Tom Morgan, professor emeritus, and Kirt Saville, retired professor and chair, provided invaluable lessons in professionalism and setting high standards for his music and influenced his approach to teaching. The inspiration from these professors continues to encourage Hansen to thrive in his musical career.

As Hansen looks toward the future, he is committed to continuing to elevate the music program at Washburn. With a belief in recruiting high-quality students, providing them with opportunities to excel and pushing them to new limits, he’s doing just that. At the 2023 Kansas Percussive Arts Society competition in April, Hansen’s students won first place in the collegiate ensemble category.

“I had them play professional-level music, which was the hardest thing I’ve ever had them play,” Hansen said. “We had some great students who worked really hard on the piece, and they played it really well.”

Ultimately, Hansen feels privileged to continue advancing music education at Washburn.

“It’s an honor to return to the school that gave me so much,” Hansen said. “Building on all the good things we have here is truly satisfying.”

Hansen and his wife, Ashley Hansen, bsn ’08, live in Topeka with their French horn-playing son, Cage, and their clarinet-loving daughter, Rallie.

Winter 2024 The Ichabod magazine cover with picture of the bell tower and snow fallen on campus

The Ichabod tells our story with features on alumni, faculty, staff, students and friends, along with the latest campus news. View the current and past editions


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