Craig Randal Johnson - Artistic Director

Photo of Craig Randal Johnson Conducting

Artistic Director Craig Randal Johnson brings Minnehaha Music wide ranging expertise as conductor, pianist, double bassist, musical collaborator and organizer. He has worked with musicians from around the globe, and has extensive experience as private teacher and coach. As co-founder of Minnehaha Music, Craig Randal Johnson strives to broaden public awareness and appreciation of great music, and to engage students and adults alike in our musical heritage. Upwards of 70 musicians have participated in reading around 60 orchestral works since the orchestra’s inception in fall 2013. Minnehaha Music Repertory Orchestra entered its fourth season in fall 2016, and played its third and highly successful public concert on November 13, 2016. (Program details can be found on the Repertory Orchestra page.)

In summer 2011 Craig Randal Johnson received international recognition as conductor of the US premiere of Jukka Linkola’s opera “Rockland”, produced by the Pine Mountain Music Festival. ‘Opera’ Magazine in London lauded the conducting of this large scale production:

“...the conductor Craig Randal Johnson brought out the darkness in the music, kept the score and the singers well balanced, and made the climaxes pay off.”

Craig Randal Johnson has conducted the Florida Symphony Orchestra, Superior Festival Orchestra, Marquette Symphony, North Star Opera, Boreal Chamber Symphony, symphony concerts for Finnfest USA, and local orchestras and theater productions in Minnesota, Massachusetts and Illinois. In Osnabrück, Germany, Mr. Johnson conducted large scale productions of Brecht plays, and composed music for numerous productions. Mr. Johnson was Resident Conductor for the Rome Festival Orchestra for three seasons, conducting Mozart operas and other works, receiving highly positive reviews from the Italian press.

As solo pianist, Mr. Johnson has performed across the United States as “Finlandia Foundation Performer of the Year". He recently appeared as soloist with the Marquette (MI) Symphony, playing the Gershwin Piano Concerto in F. In January 2017 Mr. Johnson played the program ‘Piano Music from Finland’ in Edina, MN, and will present this and similar programs at Northern Michigan University in Marquette, at the Hjemkomst Festival in Moorhead MN, and elsewhere around the country in 2017.

Recent solo appearances include recitals in Georgia, North Carolina, Maine, Connecticut, Michigan, as well as programs with clarinetist Gregory Barrett in Illinois and Buffalo, New York. He has appeared on WNYC-New York, the Amsterdam Chamber Series in New York playing the music of Hanns Eisler, the Rock Church in Helsinki, at Sundin Hall, the Hill House and Landmark Center in St. Paul, and concerts sponsored by Finnfest USA. Other full recitals have been presented by the Nordic Spirit Symposium (Thousand Oaks CA), Marquette Community Concerts, Illinois Wesleyan University, the Hartt School of Music (CT), University of Iowa, the Jokilaaksojen Music Foundation in Finland, and several programs sponsored by the Freiwilligenzentrum Hannover, Germany.

Johnson held repetitor/ coaching positions at the Staatsoper Braunschweig, Bremen Opera/ Ballet and the Osnabrück Opera and Theater. He has been music coach/ accompanist for members of the Finnish National Opera, the Fargo-Moorhead Opera, Opera Columbus, and the Augsburg Masterworks Chorale, as well as serving as staff accompanist at International Society of Bassist Conventions. He has accompanied singers Esa Ruuttunen (Finland), James Koenig (Los Angeles), Mimmi Fulmer (Madison), David Harris (Minneapolis), Hreinn Lindal (New York), Elizabeth Wärnefeldt (Sweden), the Belgian soprano Françoise Vanhecke, as well as double bassists Evan Premo, Etienne Lafrance, Ted Botsford, Josep Quer Agusti, Maggie Hasspacher and others in recital. As pianist or music director Johnson has collaborated with notable writers and directors including Eric Bentley, Joachim Lucchesi, Jussi Tapola, Goswin Moniac and Helmut Kajzar, an important figure in the Polish literary avant-garde during the Communist period. In 2012 Mr. Johnson was accompanist, conductor and music coach at Atelier Apulia, an intensive vocal program in southern Italy.

Earlier in his career Mr. Johnson was Principal Bassist of the Florida Symphony, and held positions with the Staatsorchester Braunschweig, the Aspen Chamber Symphony and Columbus (OH) Symphony. More recently he played double bass with the Minneapolis-based Arius Chamber Music Society. He has played with the Florida Gulf Coast Symphony, Jacksonville Symphony, the Osnabrücker Sinfoniker, Kassel State Orchestra, amongst others.

Craig Randal Johnson holds an M.M. degree from Northwestern University in Evanston IL, and a B.A. in liberal arts from the University of Minnesota. Johnson attended the ‘Mozarteum in Salzburg’ (Austria), studying conducting for three summers with then General Music Director of the Deutsche Staatsoper in Berlin, Otmar Suitner. Additional studies have included courses and seminars at the Aspen Music School, Dartmouth College Congregation of the Arts, the Berliner Dirigenten Werkstatt, Université Laval in Québec, and American Symphony Orchestra League functions. He has studied with conductors Charles Bruck, Richard Burgin, Bernard Rubenstein and several others, double bassists Joseph Guastafeste, James Clute, Warren Benfield and Lucas Drew, as well as pianists Bernhard Weiser and James Douglas Johnson. He has recently created ‘Finnish Classical Music Past and Present’, a concert series in Minneapolis-St. Paul featuring recitalists and chamber music during 2017, the 100th year of Finnish national independence.

Minnehaha Music


For general questions and information, please email:

Musicians interested in participating in the Repertory Orchestra should contact Craig Randal Johnson at
E-mail: crjmhahamusic@gmail.com or call 612-804-9679


“...the conductor Craig Randal Johnson brought out the darkness in the music, kept the score and the singers well balanced, and made the climaxes pay off.”

'Opera' Magazine, London