Dr. Behnke is a frequent handbell clinician, festival director, and organ recitalist. He enjoys composing and arranging, and has over 450+ handbell, choral, and organ compositions in print with nineteen different publishers in the United States, Germany, and Taiwan. A complete works listing can be found online at www.johnbehnke.com.
He is Emeritus Professor of Music of Concordia University, in Mequon, Wisconsin, where for 29 years he taught organ, church music courses, and directed The Alleluia Ringers, Concordia’s touring handbell choir.
He was the organist and choir director at Historic Trinity Ev. Lutheran Church in downtown Milwaukee, Wisconsin, from 1990-2019, and the director of the Milwaukee Handbell Ensemble and Music Editor of AGEHR Publishing – Handbell Musicians of America from 2003-2019.
He was honored in December of 1993, being named “MVP” Most Valuable Player in the Milwaukee area by Milwaukee Sentinel music critic, Nancy Raabe. In May of 1994, he was named Concordia’s “Faculty Laureate.” He has also received an ASCAP Composers Award every year since 1998. In March of 2004, he was selected by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel as one of the “10 Beautiful Minds” of scholars who help make Milwaukee a brighter place. In March of 2009, he was selected as one of 103 notable people who live and work in Ozaukee County, Wisconsin.
A 1974 graduate of Concordia-River Forest, Illinois, he received his M. Mus. in Church Music and Organ from Northwestern University, Evanston, IL. in 1978. His D. Mus. was awarded to him in 1984 by Northwestern University where he was elected into the Alpha Chapter of Pi Kappa Lambda, a National Honorary Music Society. From August 1978 to July 1979, Dr. Behnke studied at the Westphalian Church Music Institute in Herford, W. Germany, where he passed the “A” Exam in Organ with the grade of “1-Excellent.”