“…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.”

Opera Magazine, London

Craig Randal Johnson

Artistic Director

The Minnehaha Repertory Orchestra enters its 10th season in fall 2023 under the leadership of Artistic Director and Co-founder Craig Randal Johnson. As conductor, pianist and double bassist, Mr. Johnson has worked with musicians from around the globe.   Mr. Johnson is a ‘Knight of the Order of the Lion of Finland’, awarded him by the Finnish government for his advocacy and performance of Finnish classical music.    Under Craig Randal Johnson’s leadership the MRO has played over 150 works since its inception (see list of works played and perfomed).

Mr. Johnson recently conducted the US Premiere of Jaakko Kuusisto’s Piano Concerto at FinnFest 2023 in Duluth, featuring the Avery Fischer Career Grant winning pianist Mackenzie Melemed.    Craig Randal Johnson has conducted at the Pine Mountain Music Festival, as well as the Florida Symphony, Rome Festival Orchestra, Marquette MI Symphony, North Star Opera, and FinnFest symphony concerts.    In Germany Mr. Johnson was korrepetitor in the Braunschweig, Osnabrück and Bremen opera houses.  In Osnabrück he conducted, composed and arranged music for large scale theatrical productions including Brecht plays.  He has conducted several US or world premieres, especially by Finnish composers.

Craig Randal Johnson holds degrees from the University of Minnesota and Northwestern University (IL).    Significiant teachers and mentors include conductors Otmar Suitner (Mozarteum in Salzburg), Charles Bruck, Pavle Despalj and Heribert Esser; double bass professors Joseph Guastafeste and Warren Benfield (Chicago Symphony), James Clute (MN Orchestra) and Lucas Drew; and pianists Bernhard Weiser and James Douglas Johnson.    Early in his career Johnson held double bass positions in the Florida Symphony (Principal),  Aspen Chamber Symphony,  the Staatsorchester Braunschweig and the Columbus OH Symphony Orchestra.    As pianist he has accompanied noted operatic and lieder singers and double bassists.   In 1999 he toured the United States as Finlandia Foundation ‘Performer of the Year’.    Mr. Johnson has featured the music of contemporary American composers, the German composer Hanns Eisler, as well as Finnish compositions on numerous solo recitals and appearances.