As Conspirare’s founder and Artistic Director, Johnson assembles some of today’s finest singers to form a world-class ensemble. Johnson is also music director of the Cincinnati Vocal Arts Ensemble and conductor emeritus of the Victoria Bach Festival. He has served as guest conductor with Austin Symphony, San Antonio Symphony, Oregon Bach Festival, Harvard University and many others in Texas, the U.S. and abroad. Through these activities, as well as Conspirare’s many recordings on the internationally distributed [PIAS]harmonia mundi label, Johnson brings national and international recognition to the Texas musical community.
Beloved by audiences, lauded by critics and composers, and revered by musicians, Johnson is known for crafting musical journeys that create deep connections between performer and listener. Johnson is recognized for his distinctive programming, drawing on a broad spectrum of musical styles to create vibrant concert experiences. The Wall Street Journal has praised Johnson’s ability to “find the emotional essence other performers often miss.” Composer and collaborator Robert Kyr has observed that “Craig’s attitude toward creating a community of artists… goes beyond technical mastery into that emotional depth and spiritual life of the music.”
Johnson was Director of Choral Activities at the University of Texas at Austin from 1990-2001 and remains an active educator, teaching workshops and clinics statewide, nationally, and internationally. In fall 2012 he became the first Artist-in-Residence at Texas State University School of Music.
A composer and arranger, Johnson is an editor for the Craig Hella Johnson Choral Series, featuring specially selected composers as well as some of his own original compositions and arrangements. His music is also published by Alliance Music Publications. Johnson’s pieces are in high demand by choirs across the United States who also commission his work.
Johnson’s first concert-length composition Considering Matthew Shepard was premiered and recorded by Conspirare for a 2016 CD release. The Bay Area Reporter wrote: “…it has the richness, depth and complexity to compel repeated hearing … for all the musical styles Johnson employs … it has a unity of conception and voice that is all Johnson's.
Considering Matthew Shepard is a deeply American piece, performed with utter dedication by performers for whom it was composed. But its universality lies in the fact that it could be performed by many others – and must be, for all our sakes.”
Johnson’s accomplishments have been recognized with numerous awards and honors. Notably among them, he and Conspirare won a 2014 Grammy® for Best Choral Performance, Chorus America granted him the Michael Korn Founders Award for Development of the Professional Choral Art in 2015, and the Texas State Legislature named him Texas State Musician for 2013. Other honors have included 2008 induction into the Austin Arts Hall of Fame, Chorus America’s 2009 Louis Botto Award for Innovative Action and Entrepreneurial Zeal, and the 2011 Citation of Merit from international professional music fraternity Mu Phi Epsilon. Johnson studied at St. Olaf College, the Juilliard School, and the University of Illinois, and earned his doctorate at Yale University.