Award-winning violinist Mary Grace Johnson has performed as a soloist and chamber musician throughout Europe and North America. She has been a finalist and prizewinner at numerous competitions including the Bartok World String Quartet Competition, Rice University Concerto Competition and MTNA’s National Young Artist Competition. A firm believer in advocacy through music, she aims to center underrepresented voices, especially women, in her recital programming.
A strong advocate for new music, Johnson has premiered works by over a dozen composers including Anthony Brandt, Amy Nam, Theo Chandler, and Nicky Sohn. In 2023, she co-commissioned and premiered Sohn’s violin concerto, “Home,” with Kinetic Ensemble. The work was inspired by the Women’s Home Houston, an addiction recovery center for women, and presented with dance by choreographer Kayla Collymore on a program celebrating female expression. 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.
Johnson is a core member of Houston collectives Kinetic Ensemble and Loop38 and was a founding member of the prize-winning Aurelius and Unison String Quartets. A former DACAMERA Young Artist, she studied chamber music with the American, Blair, Escher, Juilliard, and Pacifica quartets. As an orchestral player, she has performed with the Nashville Symphony, Princeton Symphony Orchestra and as guest concertmaster with the El Paso Symphony. She has soloed with the Nashville Symphony, Kinetic Ensemble and Vanderbilt University Orchestra, and recently performed for the Duke of Kent in Cornwall, UK as part of the International Musicians Seminar at Prussia Cove.
A devoted educator, Johnson is the Assistant Professor of Violin at West Virginia University. She previously taught at Lone Star College-University Park and the Paganini School of Music and has worked with the chamber music programs at Rice University, Vanderbilt Blair Pre-College, and the Juilliard School. During the summers she has taught at the Kneisel Hall Maine Students Program, AFA Summer Music Festival, and Interlochen Summer Arts Camp. A proud Suzuki instructor, she received her Suzuki Training at Vanderbilt University with Carol Smith.
Johnson received her undergraduate degree from Vanderbilt University, where she was Founder’s Medalist for the Blair School of Music, and her master’s degree from the Juilliard School. She is currently completing her Doctor of Musical Arts degree (ABD) at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music. Johnson’s major instructors include Paul Kantor, Cornelia Heard, Christian Teal, and Laurie Smukler. In addition to the violin, she studied viola with Kathryn Plummer and baroque violin with Allison Nyquist. When not performing, she enjoys camping, backpacking, and experimenting with new recipes with her husband, clarinetist Keeheon Nam.
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