John Carlson knew he wanted to be a musician from the young age of 11 years old. With studies at North Texas State University, and a degree in Saxophone Performance from Northern Illinois University in 1986, he worked as a professional musician in Chicago with noted society bands and entertainers for 18 years.

In 1991, after serving as a volunteer for 4 years, John joined the staff at Willow Creek Community Church, one of the largest and most inovative churches in the country, where he served as a Music Director and Staff Arranger for 10 years. He has since performed on worship teams with Tommy Walker, Darlene Zschech, Israel Houghton, Nicole Nordeman, and Jazz artists Kirk Whalum and Abe Laboriel Sr.

John's CD "Expressions Of Instrumental Worship" (formerly titled Preludes & Preludes II) recorded while at Willow Creek, has been met with wide acclaim in both church and jazz circles. His arrangements and playing from that CD have now been used and heard in churches worldwide. In 2007, John was voted "Christian Jazz Artist Of The Year" by, a website representing independent ministry artists.

John has also served at churches in Dallas Texas, and Iowa City, Iowa. Since 2016, he now makes his home with his family in the Chicago area where he is active in local churches and professional playing, along with still writing and arranging music.