Craig Randal Johnson: Biography    

craig randal johnson

Craig Randal Johnson makes music as conductor and music director, solo pianist and collaborator, and as symphonic double bassist.  Based in Minneapolis, Mr. Johnson has studied and performed widely across the United States.  In Europe he has worked with musicians from across the globe, gaining a broad perspective of musical styles and attitudes.    Conductor and Artistic Director of Minnehaha Music, Mr. Johnson currently maintains a piano teaching studio of two dozen students, and works as a free-lance accompanist and double bassist.   He is Principal Double Bassist of the Marquette Symphony Orchestra.

Craig Randal Johnson was recently decorated as "Knight of the Order of the Lion of Finland" by the Ambassador of Finland to the United States, for his ongoing activity as conductor and pianist in promoting Finnish music.     Since the mid 1990s Mr. Johnson has played solo recitals, has accompanied singers and instrumentalists performing Finnish music, and has conducted several US orchestral premiers of Finnish works.    He was Finlandia Foundation 'Performer of the Year' in 1999, playing Finnish programs across the United States.   Celebrating the 100th year of Finnish national independence in 2017,  Mr. Johnson created the four concert chamber series 'Finnish Classical Music Past and Present' in Minneapolis, which featured music by 24 different Finnish composers.
Significant was the 2011 US premiere of Jukka Linkola's opera "Rockland", produced by the Pine Mountain Music Festival (Michigan).   ‘Opera’ Magazine in London lauded the conducting of this large scale production: “...the conductor Craig Randal Johnson brought out the darkness in the music, kept the score and the singers well balanced, and made the climaxes pay off.

Craig Randal Johnson is co-founder, conductor and Artistic Director of Minnehaha Music in Minneapolis.  Centerpiece of Minnehaha Music is the Repertory Orchestra, which since 2013 has read through circa 90 works, primarily from the standard repertoire.    The orchestra has also performed public concerts featuring guest artists Justin Berkowitz (tenor), Elizabeth York (violinist) and Deborah Elias (flamenco dancer).   The Repertory Orchestra is unique to the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, giving local musicians the opportunity to play many works which they otherwise would not encounter.

Maestro Johnson has conducted the Florida Symphony Orchestra, Superior Festival Orchestra, Marquette Symphony, Minnehaha Music Repertory Orchestra, North Star Opera,  Metropolitan Symphony (MN),, symphony concerts for Finnfest USA, and local orchestras and theater productions.   In Germany Johnson conducted large scale Brecht play productions, composing music for numerous theater works.  Mr. Johnson was Resident Conductor for the Rome Festival Orchestra for three seasons, conducting Mozart operas as well as orchestral repertoire, receiving highly positive reviews from the Italian press.  In 2012 Mr. Johnson was accompanist, conductor and music coach at Atelier Apulia, an intensive vocal program in southern Italy.

Mr. Johnson recently played the Gershwin "Piano Concerto in F" as soloist with the Marquette Symphony.   In addition to  Finnish and American music, Johnson plays the music of Hanns Eisler, as well as selections from the standard piano repertoire.
  Recent appearances include recitals in Denver, Houghton and Marquette MI, in Minneapolis, Georgia, North Carolina, Maine, Connecticut, as well as programs with clarinetist Gregory Barrett in Minneapolis, DeKalb IL and Buffalo NY.    He has appeared on WNYC-New York, in Helsinki, Hannover (DE), Los Angeles, Iowa City, Hartford CT and other cities in the USA, Germany and Finland. (see concert listings elsewhere on this website).  

Johnson held repetitor/ coaching positions at the Staatsoper Braunschweig, Bremen Opera/ Ballet and the Osnabrück Opera and Theater. , He has been music coach/ accompanist for members of the Finnish National Opera, the Fargo-Moorhead Opera, Opera Columbus, and the Augsburg Masterworks Chorale, as well as serving as staff accompanist at International Society of Bassist Conventions. He has accompanied singers Esa Ruuttunen (Finland), James Koenig (Los Angeles), Mimmi Fulmer (Madison), David Harris (Minneapolis), Hreinn Lindal (New York), Elizabeth Wärnefeldt (Sweden), the Belgian soprano Françoise Vanhecke,  double bassists Evan Premo, Etienne Lafrance, Ted Botsford, Maggie Hassbacher and others in recital.  As pianist or music director Johnson has collaborated with notable writers and directors including Eric Bentley, Joachim Lucchesi, Jussi Tapola, Goswin Moniac, Larry Whiteley and Helmut Kajzar, the latter an important figure in the Polish literary avant-garde during the Communist period.   

Earlier in his career Mr. Johnson was Principal Bassist of the Florida Symphony, and held positions with the Staatsorchester Braunschweig, the Aspen Chamber Symphony and Columbus (OH) Symphony. More recently he was double bassist with the Minneapolis-based Arius Chamber Music Society. He has played with the Florida Gulf Coast Symphony, Jacksonville Symphony, Radio Sinfonie Orchester Berlin, the Osnabrücker Sinfoniker, Staatsorchester Kassel, amongst others.  Currently he is Principal Double Bass of the Marquette Symphony Orchestra (MI).

Craig Randal Johnson holds an M.M. degree from Northwestern University in Evanston IL, and a B.A. in liberal arts from the University of Minnesota.  Johnson studied and coached with conductors Otmar Suitner (GMD Deutsche Staatsoper Berlin), Charles Bruck, Richard Burgin, Bernard Rubenstein amongst others.   Double Bass professors and teachers have included Joseph Guastafeste (Chicago Sym.), James Clute (MN Orch.) , Warren Benfield (Chicago Sym.) and Lucas Drew, as well as pianists Bernhard Weiser and James Douglas Johnson.