Craig Randal Johnson

Artistic Director

Artistic Director Craig Randal Johnson brings Minnehaha Repertory Orchestra wide ranging expertise as conductor, pianist, double bassist, musical collaborator and organizer. He has worked with musicians from around the globe, and has direct experience with disparate national and cultural musical styles. Mr. Johnson has extensive experience as a private teacher and coach. He holds degrees from the University of Minnesota (B.A.) and Northwestern University in Evanston IL (M.M.). Additional studies have been at the Dartmouth College Congregation of the Arts, Aspen Music Festival, Mozarteum in Salzburg, the Berlin Conducting Institute, ASOL workshops and other venues.

Under Craig Randal Johnson’s artistic leadership the Minnehaha Repertory Orchestra has played seven seasons, from 2013 to the Covid 19 pandemic stoppage in March 2020.   Upwards of 150 musicians have participated in playing circa 120 orchestral works, in reading sessions every other week. (Listing of works played and performed).

Craig Randal Johnson has conducted the Florida Symphony, large scale productions for Finnfest USA, at the Pine Mountain Music Festival, the Rome Festival Orchestra (Italy), the Osnabrücker Sinfoniker, and the Marquette Symphony, amongst others. In Germany Mr. Johnson conducted large scale productions of Brecht plays, and composed music for theater productions. He has conducted several US or world premieres, especially by Finnish composers. Conducting mentors and professors include Otmar Suitner (Mozarteum in Salzburg for three summers), Charles Bruck, Richard Burgin, Bernard Rubenstein as well as several notable conductors in workshop and institute settings.

“…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

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, Atelier Apulia (Italy), 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, as well as double bassists Evan Premo, Etienne Lafrance, Ted Botsford, Josep Quer Agusti, Maggie Hasspacher 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 and Helmut Kajzar, the latter an important figure in the Polish literary avant-garde during the Communist period.

As solo pianist, Mr. Johnson has performed across the United States as “Finlandia Foundation Performer of the Year”. Previous performances have included, Hartford, Bloomington IL, the California Bay Area, Thousand Oaks, in Georgia, Maine, Connecticut, Ohio, Michigan, outstate Minnesota as well as in Helsinki and Hannover (Germany) and other locations. His repertoire typically includes music by Finnish, American and occasionally recent German composers, as well as standard piano works.

Earlier in his career Mr. Johnson was Principal Double 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 for three seasons with the Minneapolis-based Arius Chamber Music Society. He has played with the Florida Gulf Coast Symphony, Jacksonville Symphony, Radio Symphony Berlin, the Osnabrücker Sinfoniker, Kassel State Orchestra, amongst others. Double bass mentors and professors have included James Clute, Joseph Guastafeste, Warren Benfield, Lucas Drew and Stuart Sankey. Recently he has participated in workshops as both bassist and pianist, centered around the fantastic teaching and musicianship of François Rabbath.

Important in the success of the Minnehaha Repertory Orchestra is Craig Randal Johnson’s experience as a private piano and also double bass teacher. He has been actively teaching privately in the Twin Cities for 20 years, and has worked with hundreds of students ages five to over 80. In order to succeed the teacher must be patient, realize that what is easy for one is difficult for another, and find ways for the love of music to blossom. This applies when conducting highly accomplished professionals and well trained amateur orchestral musicians as well.

In November, 2017, Johnson was decorated by the Ambassador of Finland to the United States in Washington, D.C. as ‘Knight of the Order of the Lion of Finland’, for his advancement of Finnish music as conductor and pianist.

Craig Randal Johnson with Finland Ambassador to the United States Ms. Kirsti Kauppi, Washington D.C. 2017