John Bayless was born in the small oil town of Borger, Texas. He started to play piano by ear at age four and at age 13 was the youngest church organist in the State of Texas. When he was 15, he won a scholarship to the Aspen School of Music where he met and first studied with the legendary Adele Marcus. At 17, he was off to New York City to attend the Juilliard School of Music.
John was invited to participate as a composer in the inaugural class of New York University’s Musical Theater Masters Degree Program where he studied with Leonard Bernstein, Julie Styne, Arthur Laurents, Betty Comden and Adolph Green. Maestro Bernstein was particularly intrigued with John’s talent at improvisation and composition and a lifelong friendship ensued. John was artist in residence for the London Symphony Orchestra’s Leonard Bernstein Festival, performing at a gala for Queen Elizabeth II.
A concert pianist, composer and recording artist, he has appeared at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall and Tanglewood, and performed with the Philadelphia Orchestra, Boston Pops, San Francisco Symphony, and New York
Pops among many others. John’s numerous CD’s have been at the top of the Classical and Classical Crossover Charts since the mid-80s. Among his best selling collections: Bach on Abbey Road (one of the top ten best selling albums of the 1980s) and The Puccini Album (Billboard’s #1 top selling album for 19 weeks).
Exhibiting extraordinary determination, John overcame a stroke that left him without the use of his right hand in 2007, and re-learned how to play the piano with just his left hand. It was being asked to play at the memorial service of his good friend Henry Z. Steinway—great-grandson of Henry E. Steinway, founder of Steinway & Sons—that inspired him to sit back down on the piano bench. John is currently Artistic Director for the Virginia Waring International Piano Competition.