Violinist Mary Grace Johnson has appeared internationally at venues from Liszt Academy’s Solti Hall in Budapest to London’s Royal Albert Hall as part of the BBC Proms. A decorated performer, she made her solo debut at age 17 with the Nashville Symphony and won first prize at the National MTNA Young Artist String competition in Baltimore, Maryland. She is a graduate of the Juilliard School where she received her Master of Music degree.
A former DACAMERA of Houston Young Artist, Ms. Johnson frequently performs at the Menil Collection, Galveston Artist Residency, Museum of Fine Arts Houston and the Moody Center, among others, and is a core member of Houston collective ensembles Kinetic Ensemble, Loop38 and MUSIQA. Ms. Johnson served as concertmaster of the Juilliard Orchestra and the Rice University Chamber Orchestra under esteemed conductors Sir Mark Elder, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, and Larry Rachleff and has performed with the Nashville Symphony, Gateway Chamber Orchestra and Princeton Symphony Orchestra. In the spring of 2023, she will serve as guest concertmaster of the El Paso Symphony. As a soloist, she has appeared with Kinetic Ensemble and the Vanderbilt Orchestra, and recently performed for the Duke of Kent in Cornwall, UK as part of the International Musicians Seminar at Prussia Cove.
A strong advocate for living composers, Ms. Johnson has premiered music by over a dozen composers, including Anthony Brandt, Amy Nam, Nicky Sohn, William David Cooper and Jake Sandridge. Past and upcoming projects include recording the works of Pierre Jalbert, Karim Al-Zand, Patrick Harlin, and Theo Chandler for commercial release. In 2023, she will premiere 'Home', a violin concerto by Nicky Sohn that she co-commissioned with Kinetic Ensemble, inspired by the Women’s Home Houston, an addiction recovery center, on a program celebrating women composers. Her research on women in music led her to design and teach a Special Topics course at Rice University entitled “Boulanger to Beyoncé: Women in Music in the 20th and 21st century.” This course explores the stories and influence of women in classical, jazz and pop music, as well as the social circumstances that surround their musical outputs.
As a chamber musician, Ms. Johnson has collaborated with the Argus Quartet, Sarah Rothenberg, Kirsten Doctor, Ko Iwasaki, Scott Yoo, and Stefan Hersch, among others, and was a founding member of the Aurelius and Unison String Quartets. She studied chamber music with the American, Blair, Escher, Juilliard and Pacifica quartets, and has attended festivals such as Kneisel Hall, Perlman Music Program, Juilliard String Quartet Seminar, and the Aspen Center for Advanced Quartet Studies. Her chamber music honors include finalist and honorary mention at the 2021 Bartok World String Quartet Competition in Budapest, quarterfinalist of the Fischoff Chamber Music Competition and 2nd prize at the National MTNA Chamber Music Competition in San Antonio, Texas. Ms. Johnson is on the faculty of the American Festival of the Arts Chamber Music Academy in Houston and has worked with the chamber music programs at Rice University, Vanderbilt Blair Pre-College, and the Juilliard School.
Ms. Johnson currently teaches at the Paganini School of Music in Katy, Texas and will join the faculty at Lone Star College-University Park this spring. She previously served as a Juilliard Morse Teaching Fellow in Manhattan and taught on the faculty at the W.O. Smith Community Music School in Nashville. Her students have successfully auditioned for pre-college programs, scholarships, and area and region orchestras, and her growing reputation in Houston has led to students traveling several hours to be part of her studio. A proud Suzuki instructor, she received her Suzuki Training at Vanderbilt University with Carol Smith.
Ms. Johnson received her undergraduate degree from Vanderbilt University, where she was awarded the Founder’s Medal for the Blair School of Music, the highest honor in her graduating class. In addition to the violin, she studied viola with Kathryn Plummer and baroque violin with Allison Nyquist. She is currently completing her Doctor of Musical Arts degree (ABD) at the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University. Her primary instructors include Paul Kantor, Cornelia Heard, Christian Teal, and Laurie Smukler. When not performing, she loves camping, backpacking, and experimenting with new recipes with her husband Keeheon.