Craig Hella Johnson is a highly esteemed figure in the music world, adored by audiences, revered by singers, and highly praised by critics and composers alike. The Wall Street Journal has lauded his ability to capture the emotional essence that often eludes other performers. Fanfare magazine writes that he has assembled and shaped a world-class choir that deserves the utmost respect.
Distinguished composer John Corigliano has expressed his admiration for Johnson, stating that he understands Corigliano’s music in a way that no one else ever has. Johnson’s comprehensive understanding of the music he conducts demonstrates his exceptional musical talent. Composer and collaborator Robert Kyr has observed that Johnson’s approach to creating a community of artists who work together to interpret the score goes beyond technical mastery, delving into the emotional and spiritual depths of the music.
The San Antonio Express-News was effusive in its praise of Johnson’s performance of Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis, describing it as a radiant and organic representation of the music, brimming with seamless connections, balanced dynamics, and a flawless structural arc.
Recognitions and Awards
Over the years, Craig Hella Johnson has received numerous honors and awards that testify to his exceptional contributions to the world of music. Some of his notable accolades include:
- Texas State University Presidential Award for Excellence in Scholarly/Creative Activities (2022)
- Dennis Dougherty Award for Community Leadership from the Matthew Shepard Foundation (2021)
- The Michael Korn Founders Award for Development of the Professional Choral Art, Chorus America’s lifetime achievement award (2015)
- Best Choral Performance GRAMMY® for conducting Conspirare on the CD The Sacred Spirit of Russia (Harmonia Mundi label) (2014)
- Texas State Musician, being only the second classical musician to receive this prestigious honor (2013)
- Invited Speaker for TEDxAustin (2012)
- Panelist for the Fetzer Institute and Eranos Foundation’s “Love and the Musical Arts” gathering in Switzerland (2011)
- Mu Phi Epsilon (professional music fraternity) Citation of Merit, the organization’s highest honor for a non-member (2011)
- Chorus America’s Louis Botto Award for Innovative Action and Entrepreneurial Zeal (2009)
- Austin Arts Hall of Fame (2008)
Accomplished Composer and Arranger
Craig Hella Johnson’s talents extend beyond conducting and teaching. He is an accomplished composer and arranger. One of his most notable works, Considering Matthew Shepard, is a concert-length composition that premiered in 2016 and has since been performed by 40 choirs worldwide. Select songs from this oratorio have become part of the competition repertoire for high school and college choirs.
As an arranger, Johnson has developed a distinctive “collage” style. He seamlessly blends music and poetry, combining sacred and secular, classical and contemporary, and traditional and popular styles. His works are published under the Craig Hella Johnson Choral Series, which features specially selected composers alongside his original compositions and arrangements, all published by G. Schirmer Publishing. Alliance Music Publications also publishes some of his works.
An Inspiring Educator and Conductor
In addition to his talent as a musician, Johnson is an exceptional music educator and conductor. He serves as the music director of the Cincinnati Vocal Arts Ensemble, holds the position of artist in residence at Texas State University, and is the conductor emeritus of the Victoria Bach Festival.
Johnson’s impressive career includes being the Artistic Director of San Francisco-based Chanticleer (1998-1999) and guest conductor with esteemed orchestras such as the Austin Symphony and the San Antonio Symphony, both in Texas and internationally.
From 1990 to 2001, Johnson served as the Director of Choral Activities at the University of Texas at Austin, where he led the graduate program in choral conducting. He continues to be an active educator, teaching and inspiring professionals and students at conferences and universities worldwide. His expertise is sought after, and he is a frequent speaker at regional and national conferences of the American Choral Directors Association. Since joining the faculty at Texas State as Artist in Residence in 2016, he has brought innovative teaching methods and programming to inspire his colleagues and students in his role as Professor of Practice.
Craig Hella Johnson was born and raised in Minnesota. He pursued his education at St. Olaf College, the Juilliard School, and the University of Illinois, ultimately earning his doctorate at Yale University. As a recipient of a National Arts Fellowship, Johnson had the opportunity to study with Helmuth Rilling at the International Bach Academy in Stuttgart, Germany. He currently resides in Austin with his husband.
Published Compositions and Arrangements
Craig Hella Johnson’s extensive collection of published works can be obtained through Alliance Music and Hal Leonard. If a specific title is not listed, interested individuals can reach out via email at email@example.com. Some of his notable compositions and arrangements include:
- 1000 Beautiful Things
- All of Us (from Considering Matthew Shepard)
- Been in de Storm / Wayfaring Stranger
- Dorothy Poems (includes “Until Even the Angels”)
- Gabriel’s Oboe
- Gitanjali Chants
- Hard Times
- The Holding Carol
- I Love You/What a Wonderful World
- If I Had A Hammer
- Let the River Run
- Light of a Clear Blue Morning
- Lo, How a Rose / The Rose
- Motherless Child
- Psalm of Life
- Song Of Gratitude
- Soon Ah Will Be Done / I Wanna Die Easy
- The Song I Came to Sing
- The Water Is Wide
- To the First of My Lovers
- we are
- Will There Really Be a Morning?
For more titles, please refer to the Craig Hella Johnson Schirmer Choral Series.
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