Peter Madsen was born in Racine, Wisconsin where he began his classical piano studies at the age of eight and double bass at the age of ten. At thirteen he became interested in jazz on both instruments and started to play professionally three years later. In 1978 he graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire with a degree in Music Education, after which he moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota to concentrate on developing his jazz piano skills through intensive practice and a bursting schedule of gigs, composing and teaching.
In 1980 Peter moved to New York City. He got one of his many breaks when Stan Getz hired him to tour Europe and the U.S
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