By Amy Fredette
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Henry Johnson, a specialist in American music and the driving force behind the UA Orchestra, died Aug. 30 in a San Diego convalescent home. He was 84.
Johnson was born Dec. 23, 1911, in Fort Huachuca and raised in Tombstone. His passion for music began in his youth, when he attended concerts in Tucson.
His affiliation with the University of Arizona started when he was a music student. He earned a bachelor of music degree in 1933, and a master of music the following year.
Violinist, violist, professor and conductor, Johnson led a full and fruitful life. His many accomplishments include teaching instrumental music and music theory at the UA and organizing the University Little Symphony.
Johnson left the university in 1937 to teach at Bennington College in Vermont. He then continued his musical career at Hastings College in Nebraska, received an M.A. in music from Columbia University and went on to teach at UCLA.
Johnson returned to the UA in 1952, where he worked on the schoolıs orchestra program until his retirement in 1977.
³He built it up from practically nothing to an outstanding group,² said John Bloom, retired UA music professor. ³It has never achieved the quality it had since he left.²
Bloom also described Johnson as a ³strict disciplinarian,² and a ³great exponent of American symphonic music by American composers.²
Deon Hill, a UA music facilities manager, who is a former student of Johnsonıs, agreed with Bloomıs comments.
³He definitely was tough on you; you didnıt come (to class) unprepared,² she said.
Deon added, ³He was a wonderful musician and teacher. He knew what he was doing.²
In 1967, Bloom was able to witness an opera composed by Johnson, entitled ³The Mountain,² which was produced by the UA.
³I thought it was very good,² he said. ³It was a style all his own.²
After retiring, Johnson moved to San Diego, where he played chamber music and conducted the San Diego Youth Orchestra.
Johnson had no surviving relatives, but he did leave behind some notebooks in the music department, chronicling his work at the UA.
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