Joyce Johnson, D.Mus.
Professor Emerita, College Organist
Joyce Finch Johnson, AAGO, is a professor emerita of music and college organist at Spelman College. From 1989 - 1994 and 1995-2001, she served as chair of the Department of Music. Having received her earliest musical training from her mother, she later studied piano with William Duncan Allen at Fisk University, Beryl Rubinstein at the Cleveland Institute of Music, Jose Echaniz at the Eastman School of Music, Louis Crowder and Gui Mombaerts at Northwestern University, from which she earned the Master of Music degree and the Doctor of Music in Piano Performance. She studied organ with Richard Enright and Karel Paukert at Northwestern, and David Craighead at the Eastman School of Music. In 1989, through a rigorous certification examination, she became an Associate of the American Guild of Organists (AAGO).
A seasoned performer, Joyce Johnson plays both solo piano and solo organ recitals. She conducts workshops, plays with chamber music groups and accompanies distinguished artists. She has concertized in Haiti, the West Indies and Brazil, where she played piano concerts in Sao Paulo as part of an international music festival (the Primeira Semana de Musica das Americas). She also was Artist-in-Residence at the Pernambuco Conservatory of Music in Recife, Brazil, and performed piano concerts in that area of South America. She has had an expansive career as a performer, and has been heralded as “pianist extraordinaire, astounding and thrilling audiences with her consummate artistry. She brings to the piano a formidable bravura technique, great sensitivity in playing emotional, lyrical melodies, warmth and richness of tone, and impeccable musicianship. Additionally, she plays with self-assurance and control, and with authoritative command.” She was elected to The International Roster of Steinway Artists.
A child prodigy, her first concert was given at age eleven. After college, performance opportunities increased to include chamber music, collaborations with distinguished artists, and guest solo appearances with symphony orchestras. She made her debut with Robert Shaw and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra in the Atlanta premiere performance of John La Montaine’s Pulitzer-Prize-winning Concerto for Piano and Orchestra. With orchestra she has performed, to acclaim, concerti by Franck, Liszt, Mozart, Beethoven, and Rubinstein, under conductors Robert Shaw, Louis Lane, Christian Badea, Michael Palmer, and Andre Raphael Smith, to name a few. Her performance repertoire has been broad, including such disparate piano works as the sonatas of 20th century composers Elliot Carter and Leon Kirchner, Ravel’s "Gaspard de la Nuit" and the Liszt sonatas.
Equally gifted as an organist, she had the distinction of being the chosen organist for the nationally televised Communion Service reuniting the Northern and Southern Presbyterian churches at its 195th General Assembly of 12,000 people in Atlanta, Georgia. Later, she was Assembly Organist for the Quadrennial Ecumenical Assembly of 4,000 Church Women United at Purdue University. Subsequently, she was again invited to Purdue University to serve as organist for Faith Works--a United Church of Christ convention of nearly 4,000 people. She has performed in the Festival de Musique Baroque in Souvigny, France and also in Lyon, as a part of a summer institute on French organ music. In demand as a recitalist and workshop leader, she often lectures at colleges, seminaries and churches on African American music, arts issues in higher education, or topics related to keyboard performance and performance pedagogy.
For several summers she served as conference organist and conducted organ masterclasses for the Hampton University Ministers Conference (Choir Directors’/ Organists’ Guild) in Hampton, Virginia. She was recitalist, workshop presenter and hymn festival organist at the American Guild of Organists Region VIII Convention in Billings, Montana. For decades, she has been the organist for the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Ecumenical Service at the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta.