My mother bought me a piano when I was in the 6th grade. My love of music then sprouted wings through lessons with a great local teacher, Grace Geyser, who had a kaleidoscope of musical talents. Grace taught me how to play piano and organ, read classical music, play by ear, write down songs I heard on the radio (then play them), and write my own music. From her I began learning music theory, a love for piano, organ, opera, and classical music. She also gave me singing lessons and taught me a wide range of performing, from Bel Canto to pop. She saw nothing unusual about being both a diva soloist onstage, and a humble accompanist, playing for a crowd wanting to sing Christmas Carols. She was a great encourager, and a truly remarkable personality. With the help of Grace, I was soon playing the piano for school dances and programs, playing hits off the radio by ear.
Throughout middle school and high school, I took lessons from Laura Lee Lukas, concert pianist, and 4th generation Beethoven student. (Wager Swayne,Theodor Leschitizsky, Czerny, Beethoven). Laura taught me how important discipline, hard work, and following a method were, to accomplishing a goal. I will forever be grateful to her for making me practice 5 hours a day (I wasn’t all that grateful in high school and college, though…). She gave me the confidence and grace to make it all the way through a complicated piece, and show grateful appreciation for applause.
I became a Christian the summer before my senior year in high school. That changed everything for me. I had been accepted at Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY, fully expected to embark on a professional music career as a pianist and composer. The summer after high school graduation, I was chosen as the most outstanding music student at my high school, and attended a summer workshop in Hollywood, featuring some notable personalities such as Elmer Bernstein, Lawrence Foster. I spent the entire summer learning from the greats, and the crowning experience was performing in the opera chorus of Song of Songs by Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, famed Italian composer and conductor. With the help of professional soloists, we performed the world premier of his opera which was written from the Song of Solomon. Mario was present at the concert. It was a beautifully set opera and an honor to be chosen to perform for him.
As for college, at the last minute, I changed my plans, and followed my friends to a Christian college on the West Coast. That decision was one of the best of my life. It was during that time that I began serving on worship teams. I would not trade my years in Gospel music for anything in the world. God has His ways of putting our feet on His path, for His purposes, when we are willing and obedient. I was a church pianist, organist and soloist for weddings, church services and revivals, special occasions and holidays. One of my teachers at the college was Gerard Faber from the Netherlands. Faber was 3rd top organist in the world at the time of my lessons. Gerard was such a master that he was famous for being able to compose a fugue on the spot, in front of a crowd of hundreds of people. He would have someone in the audience hum a random original motif, then he would sit down at the console of a pipe organ, and produce a masterpiece from that small improvised tune.
In my junior year, I was hired on by a local Christian high school , to teach music appreciation, music theory, and be their chorus director. A local radio station gave me a spot on Saturday nights, singing and playing piano live on a Christian program. My college theory professor was William Tapsfield, an amazing trombonist from the big-band era. There wasn’t a question during class that he couldn’t answer. And we asked some pretty complicated questions. This foundation was the pre-cursor to my love for arranging, and his guidance gave me a confidence as a musician in many disciplines. He used Traditional Harmony (a small book by Hindemith) in one hand, and the hymn book in the other. Many people don’t realize that perfect music theory can be found in our hymn books; fundamentals of harmony, voicing, orchestration, notation and so much more. I would like to see churches bring back those valuable books that taught us all how to read music and harmonize as we praise God together.
Currently, I am working on several projects, one is an album of songs, A Hymn For All Seasons, in tribute to hymn writer Isaac Watts (1674 – 1748). I am also mid-way through several other endeavors: an opera, Ruth and Boaz, based on Ruth, whose story is found in the Bible; a work honoring David and his musicianship, and I am also writing Christmas songs, hymns and worship songs on a daily basis. I also assist other songwriters through meetings and concerts at Alpha & Omega Christian Songwriters. A sample of my work may be found at: http://www.ajohnsonsongs.com
I live in beautiful Vancouver Washington with my husband, Michael, a master electrician.
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