Baroque On BeaverClassical Music on Island Time

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Robert Johnson

Robert Johnson (2017)

Bass

What are your most important educational and musical moments?
I have had many musical moments as I’ve moved further into my career. However, when I was a senior at CMU, I was introduced to Eduard Tubin’s Double Bass Concerto, which was pivotal to my decision to ultimately pursue graduate studies. The same year saw my first performance of Mahler’s “Resurrection” Symphony, which exposed me to depths of music I had yet to experience and left me wanting so much more. I especially enjoy sharing a stand with Mark Buchner and playing with the rest of the Baroque on Beaver Festival Orchestra. My favorite concert here is New & Next which introduces new and innovative classical music. 

Tell us about your family.
My father plays the guitar and gave me my first bass guitar exposure, and my parents are both newly and wonderfully retired. I originally grew up in the Chicagoland area with my family and am a diehard White Sox fan. 

Why did you choose music?
It was a bit of an accident – my high school orchestra director received a flyer for the Midland Symphony Orchestra fellowship through Central Michigan University and encouraged me to audition. I didn’t win, but that was enough to start me down the path. I graduated from CMU with a Bachelor of Music in Double Bass and ultimately received both my M.M. and Doctor of Musical Arts from Michigan State University. 

Why did you choose your instrument?
I actually started out playing the violin in 6th grade, but upon seeing a double bass in middle school knew I wanted to make the switch, which I did upon receiving my parents’ agreeing to drive me around with an instrument that was bigger than me at the time.

What else are you currently doing?
I moved back to Michigan in 2021 from Minnesota, where I was attending violin repair school as part of my doctoral research. I currently work at Grand Rapids Violins as an apprentice of Kevin Flannery and Matt Noykos. I also freelance with the symphonies of Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Lansing, West Michigan, and others. 

Any non-musical interests or hobbies?
I enjoy reading, doing crossword puzzles, and generally working with my hands. I would love to restore antique cars one day. I also enjoy studying instruments and am currently building a double bass. Rocket League is a great time waster when I can justify it.

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