John Wells began organ studies at the age of 13 in his home town of Stamford, Lincolnshire, having learnt the piano for some years. He won an organ scholarship to King’s College, Cambridge in 1965 and then moved to New Zealand in 1969. He pursued a successful career as performer and composer, making vinyl recordings on the (then) newly-rebuilt Auckland Town Hall organ. He was assistant organist at Holy Trinity Cathedral, St Philip’s Church, St Helier’s Bay and was appointed Auckland City Organist for the first time in the early 1970s. In 1975 he entered the doctoral-level organ performance programme at the Bloomington campus of Indiana University. He studied under Dr Oswald Ragatz and graduated with high distinction in 1978. Returning to England he was appointed organist at Little St Mary’s Church, Cambridge and began a series of summer vacation recitals in that city that has grown into a successful international series which is still running.
On his return to New Zealand in 1986, he was appointed Auckland City Organist, Auckland University Organist and is Visiting Artist-Tutor at the University’s School of Music. He has served as President of the New Zealand Association of Organists which awarded him theirhonorary Fellowship in recognition of his services to the organ in New Zealand.
He produced New Zealand’s first organ CD in 1989 This is Alkan, following it up with six more, including a 4-disc set of Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier. He has produced a steady stream of organ and chorale compositions, the latest of which is two settings of the Evensong canticles for Musica Sacra. A full list of compositions can be found under ‘Publications’.
He continues to broadcast, teach, perform and compose; two of his university students have gone on to study at Yale and Julliard, and he also teaches privately up to diploma level. He has been an examiner for the Associated Board since 1992. He is now involved in the preparations for the inauguration and opening celebrations for the newly-rebuilt Klais organ in the Auckland Town Hall, which will be played in public for the first time on Sunday, March 21st, 2010.