John Hagen

College Faculty:
Humanities: ESL Director

College Faculty Emeritus

John Hagen joined the MSM community in 2008, initiating the English as a Second Language (ESL) Program. He retired in 2022 after many years as Director of the ESL program at MSM.

ESL was a second career for Mr. Hagen, a life-long musician. He studied the Teaching of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) at Hunter College and Brooklyn College, and taught ESL at Brooklyn College before coming to MSM. Early in his career, Mr. Hagen taught music at the University of Wisconsin Extension, the Bergen School in Jersey City, and Boys and Girls Harbor in New York City.

John has designed MSM’s ESL program especially for musicians – there is a primary focus on teaching the English language as it is used in music. John also developed an introductory, undergraduate Humanities course. Observation of the English language skills of students being admitted to MSM gradually led Mr. Hagen to design an English proficiency test specifically for MSM applicants. John also served for four years on the Faculty Council as part of his on-going effort to reach out to other departments at MSM.

John received the MSM Presidential Medal for Distinguished Service from President Gandre in 2017.

Mr. Hagen earned his B.A. at Bennington College, where two of his teachers were the Pulitzer Prize-winning composer, Henry Brant, and the avant-garde trumpeter/composer, Bill Dixon. In New York City, John studied privately with saxophonist, Warne Marsh, and pianist, Garry Dial.

Since moving to New York City in 1974, John has played woodwind instruments and composed music for jazz ensembles, choreographers, and video soundtracks. His CD of original compositions, Segments, features bassists Mark Dresser and Shanir Blumenkrantz, drummers Gerry Hemingway and Todd Capp, and pianist Denman Maroney. John plays tenor, alto, and soprano saxophones on the recording. Segments was awarded an Honorable Mention in the Village Voice Jazz Critics’ Poll in 2003. Mr. Hagen’s current musical focus is the recording and publishing of his 26 Segments for Saxophone.

Some of John’s quartet recordings can be heard on Youtube, including Round and Round, featuring guitarist, Bob DeVos, bassist Tom Hubbard, and the late, Dave Ratajczak on drums.

Mr. Hagen is the woodwind soloist on the soundtracks of David Mamet’s films House of Games, Things Change, and Homicide. John can be heard on the Original Cast recording and the 1985 PBS Great Performances broadcast of The Gospel at Colonus with Morgan Freeman; he toured extensively with the Obie Award-winning show.

John has recorded albums and songs alongside The Blind Boys of Alabama, The Soul Stirrers, Bob Telson, The Microscopic Septet (with John Zorn), Baird Hersey and The Year of the Ear (with MSM faculty member, Dave Liebman), Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen and Walter Becker, Bill Dixon, and the avant-garde bassist/composer, William Parker.

John is married to ceramic artist, Judy Kapner. Their son (conductor/pianist) Dr. Oliver Hagen played piano on the 2017 Grammy-winning album of Steve Reich’s music by Third Coast Percussion, and currently teaches conducting at Juilliard Pre-College. Oliver was a pianist for Pierre Boulez and served for two years as Assistant Conductor for Ensemble Intercontemporain in Paris. Judy and John’s daughter, Isabel Hagen, is a busy freelance violist in NYC (Ensemble Signal, ACME, Wordless Music Orchestra). She also performs regularly as a stand-up comic and was recently featured on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.


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