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Kris Johnson

Kris Johnson to Join Department of Jazz & Contemporary Improvisation

Apr 17, 2024 | Faculty, Faculty Announcements

The University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance announces that Kris Johnson will join the Department of Jazz & Contemporary Improvisation as an assistant professor in the fall of 2024. Johnson is an acclaimed trumpeter, composer, and educator originating from the city of Detroit. His portfolio encompasses music, film scores, musical theatre, and education.

A distinguished figure in the music community, Johnson’s resume includes collaborations on six Grammy-nominated albums. Notably, his arrangement contributions to the Count Basie Orchestra’s Basie Swings the Blues earned him acclaim, culminating in a coveted Grammy win for Best Large Jazz Ensemble at the 66th Annual Grammy Awards in 2024.

“I am incredibly honored and want to offer a major thanks to Dean Gier, Professor Bishop, and the entire faculty for such a warm welcome,” said Johnson. “I’m excited to work with our talented students, collaborate with faculty, and continue my creative research at U-M.” 

As the leader of the Kris Johnson Group, Johnson has spearheaded the creation of several studio albums, including Odd Expressions, Journey Through a Dream, and The Unpaved Road, featuring collaborations with esteemed artists like Lulu Fall. His audiovisual album SAFE  seamlessly blends music and abstract animation to delve into poignant childhood memories.

As a composer, Johnson has garnered recognition from esteemed institutions such as the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and the Count Basie Orchestra. His accolades include the 2012 ASCAP Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composers Award and selection as one of 25 Detroit performing and literary artists to receive a Kresge Artist Fellowship. He has created award-winning compositions for various web series, documentaries, and feature films. 

“Professor Johnson is world-class in everything he does, from trumpet, composition, arranging, production, and education to being one of the most genuine people I have ever met,” said Andrew Bishop, professor and chair of the Department of Jazz and Contemporary Improvisation. “He has everything it takes to work with both young students and the most advanced players in the world. His impact on our program, the school, and the university will be nothing short of amazing.” 

Johnson is a dedicated educator, having served in various roles at institutions such as the University of Utah, Michigan State University, and the Ohio State University. He is also the visionary behind Office Hours with Kris Johnson, an online series offering video courses and ebooks tailored for virtual learning.

He received his BA and MA in jazz studies from Michigan State University.

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