Amarillo College graduate Brad Johnson, presently a senior at West Texas A&M University, will be an honored guest of the Amarillo Symphony Feb. 22-23 for its world premiere performances of Ascension, a piece Johnson himself composed.
Johnson is this year’s winner of the Symphony-sponsored WTAMU Composer’s Initiative, but not all that long ago he was a general studies major at Amarillo College – a freshman needing to add an elective in the arts.
The 2014 product of Amarillo High School happened to be a guitar enthusiast, and so he settled on AC’s Music Theory class.
That decision placed him squarely in the hands of Dr. Jim Laughlin, AC professor of music, who quickly recognized Johnson’s musical talents and gave him an unexpected nudge.
“I really liked Dr. Laughlin’s class, and I thought I was pretty good at music theory,” Johnson said. “But I was a little surprised when he told me I should pursue a music composition degree when I got to WT, yet that’s what I did.
“I’m truly grateful for what he taught me and for the advice he gave me.”
Johnson actually is studying both music industry and music composition at WT, a double major he hopes will lead to a satisfying career scoring and producing his own music for film and video games.
Before that, however, the 2016 graduate of AC will sit back and listen to the first-ever orchestral performance of Ascension, his piece of a little more than five minutes in duration that the Amarillo Symphony will include in its West Side Story-themed concert at 7:30 p.m. both Friday and Saturday, Feb. 22 and 23.
Performances are at the Globe-News Center for the Performing Arts, 500 S. Buchanan St. in downtown Amarillo.
The WTAMU Composer’s Initiative was launched a few years back by the Symphony’s music director and conductor Jacomo Rafael Bairos, to encourage and build young regional composing talent.
Johnson says his winning piece includes the “standard orchestra setup” of woodwinds, horns, percussion and strings, but with a few modern add-ins –keyboard instruments, bells and chimes.
“It’s a dream come true to win the Composer’s Initiative competition, but it still hasn’t completely sunk in that this is actually happening, that they’re playing my piece,” Johnson said. “I’m absolutely elated and very thankful for this opportunity.”
Professor Laughlin says it did not take him long to recognize Johnson’s special talent and passion for music.
“Brad was in my freshman-level Music Theory and Ear Training classes,” said Laughlin, who also plays clarinet and saxophone in the Amarillo Symphony. “He was always diligent with homework and his interest and enjoyment with music theory and composition grew throughout the year.
“I’m very proud of Brad and his accomplishments both at AC and at WT. Hearing his composition with the Symphony will be a treat for everyone.”