Artist / Author / Composer/ Arranger/ Producer/ Recording Artist/ Instructor / Former Chairman of the Performing Arts at Washtenaw Community College

John E. Lawrence, a lifelong resident of Ypsilanti is one of Michigan’s most talented and respected guitarists. Mr. Lawrence credits his musical talents first and foremost to God, then to the late Dr. Morris J. Lawrence Jr. (no relation). Dr. Lawrence was an instructor and chair of the Music Department at Washtenaw Community College (WCC). Under the tutelage of Dr. Lawrence, John was challenged and inspired to continuously improve his skills as a guitarist.

John Lawrence has published 16 instructional guitar books (three by Mel Bey Publishing), produced four DVDs and recorded 10 CDs. Mr. Lawrence was employed by WCC in Ann Arbor, MI for 36 years, retiring on May 4, 2015. He served as Chair of the Performing Arts Department, Head of the Music Performance Program, and was an instructor in the department. Within the first two years as department head, he developed 25 new courses and three Certificate Programs (Guitar Studies, Piano Studies, Music Production and Engineering). He also published a textbook for a course that he developed entitled “Self-Management for the Working Artist,” which educates students on how to make a living in the music business.

A hallmark of Mr. Lawrence’s tenure at WCC is his creation of the “Living Legends Series,” which provided a stage for famous recording artists to be interviewed and share their life stories in front of a live audience followed by a question-and-answer period. The evening culminated with a concert. The program provided WCC students firsthand knowledge from musical legends. The series hosted artists such as Mavis Staples, The Four Tops, Ashford and Simpson, Earl Klugh and The Temptations.

In the realm of performance, John served as musical director and lead guitarist for vocalist Carl Carlton, who was the opening act for such famed artists as Smokey Robinson, Chaka Khan, Lionel Richie and the Commodores, Rick James, Teena Marie, Frankie Beverly and Maze. He has made television appearances on three nationally syndicated programs: Kelly & Company, PM Magazine and Good Morning America.

On July 6, 2014 John embarked on a new challenge as the Musical Director at the newly formed Empowerment Church under the spiritual leadership of Rev. Dr. Carlyle Fielding Stewart, III. In its inaugural year the church has grown to over eight hundred members.

Mr. Lawrence is the recipient of numerous awards and recognitions. Most notable are the 2008 Washtenaw Community College Morris J. Lawrence Award, presented by the President of the College. It is the highest honor given to a faculty member. On May 28, 2015, he received a Special Tribute from the State of Michigan signed by Governor Rick Snyder, six state legislators, and presented by State Representative David Rutledge for John’s remarkable years of service at Washtenaw Community College and the greater community as a whole.


Listen to an interview with John E. Lawrence: