Mary Grace Johnson
Assistant Professor - Violin
Award-winning violinist Mary Grace Johnson has performed as a soloist and chamber musician throughout Europe and North America in venues from Lincoln Center to Royal Albert Hall as part of the BBC Proms. She has been a prizewinner and finalist at numerous competitions including the Bartok World String Quartet Competition in Budapest, Hungary and MTNA’s National Young Artist Competition, and has been featured on NPR's Performance Today. 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 composed in collaboration with the Women's Home, a rehabilitation facility in Houston dedicated to assisting women in overcoming addiction and homelessness and presented on a program celebrating female expression. The project garnered extensive media coverage, including features in television, radio, and magazines, and resulted in a sold-out premiere performance. 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 co-leader and program curator for Kinetic Ensemble, Houston's premiere conductorless string orchestra. Her recordings with Kinetic have been released to critical acclaim on Orchid Classics and Bright Shiny Things. A former DACAMERA Young Artist and founding member of the prize-winning Aurelius and Unison String Quartets, she has performed with some of the world's leading chamber musicians, including Steven Doane, Sarah Rothenberg, Lesley Hatfield, Scott Yoo and Sharan Leventhal, and has studied chamber music with the American, Blair, Escher, Juilliard, and Pacifica quartets. An avid orchestral player, she has performed with the Nashville Symphony, West Virginia Symphony, and Princeton Symphony Orchestra, and as concertmaster with the El Paso Symphony, Juilliard Orchestra, and Rice Chamber Orchestra. She has appeared as soloist with several orchestras including the Nashville Symphony and the Vanderbilt University Orchestra, and was recently selected to perform 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. Her students have been successful auditioning for competitions, scholarships, and honor's orchestras and her reputation as a teacher has led to students traveling for several hours to be part of her studio. A proud Suzuki instructor, she received her Suzuki Training at Vanderbilt University with Carol Smith.
Johnson completed her studies at Vanderbilt University, the Juilliard School and Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music. Her 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.