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Arts & Entertainment Guest pianist to perform Finnish, American music at WCU

Guest pianist Craig Randal Johnson will present a concert of Finnish and American music at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 27, in the recital hall of Coulter Building at Western Carolina University.

Johnson, who lives in Minneapolis, Minn., is a conductor and double bassist as well as a pianist. He has traveled throughout the United States and to several European countries performing both new music and standard repertoire.

In his recital at WCU, he will perform “American Ballads for Piano” by Roy Harris, “Five Bagatelles” by Joonas Kokkonen, “Mephisto Rag” by Libby Larsen and “Spiral Dances” by Robert Carl.

Named “Performer of the Year” in 1999 by the Finlandia Foundation of Pasadena, Calif., a national organization devoted to the preservation of Finnish-American culture, Johnson in 2012 served as music coach and accompanist at the Atelier Apulia, a vocal arts summer institute in Italy.

He has conducted orchestras in Europe and the United States, including at the recent North American premiere of Finnish composer Jukka Linkola’s new opera, “Rockland,” at the Pine Mountain Music Festival in Hancock, Mich. He was a pianist, director of stage play music, assistant conductor and bassist for six seasons in opera houses in Germany. Early in his career, he was principal double bassist for the Florida Symphony in Orlando and has played double bass with several European and U.S. orchestras.

Johnson earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota and his master’s degree in music from Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. He has studied conducting at the Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria; the Domaine Conducting School in Hanover, Maine; and the Aspen Music School in Colorado.

The piano concert at WCU is presented by the School of Music. For information, call (828)227-7242. The performance is open to the public free of charge.

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