L. Lockwood and E.R. Roesner: Essays in Musicology: a Tribute to Alvin Johnson (Philadelphia, 1990) [incl. L. Cuyler: ‘A Letter to Alvin Johnson’, 305 only; P.H. Lang: ‘Tribute to Alvin Johnson’, 306 only]
Johnson, A(rtemas) N(ixon)
(b Middlebury, VT, 22 June 1817; dNew Milford, CT, 1 Jan 1892). American music educationist, editor and composer. After study in Boston with George Webb and Lowell Mason, Johnson taught for the Musical Education Society (1837–41), Boston Public Schools (1839–54) and Boston Academy of Music (1844–9). He was choir leader and organist for the Park Street Church (1840–c1856). Among his early private students were George F. Root and Isaac B. Woodbury. After studying in Frankfurt under the composer-theorist Xaver Schnyder von Wartensee, Johnson published Instructions in Thorough Base in 1844. It established him as the nation’s first professional music theorist. He subsequently founded the (Boston) Musical Gazette (1846–50), a music book publishing business favouring works by Americans (1851–6), and with B.F. Baker, the Boston Musical Journal (1853–4), which in 1855 Johnson re-established as the Massachusetts Musical Journal, making his protégé Eben Tourjée editor and publisher.
Johnson invented a learning-by-doing approach to music teaching. Nationally known as ‘Johnson’s System’, its choral version rivalled Mason’s European-based ‘Pestalozzian’ system. Ultimately, Johnson’s American bias led to his rejection by the nation’s European-influenced musical establishment. Undaunted, he found acceptance outside East Coast cities. As president of the Allegany Academy of Music in Friendship, New York (c1863–70), he employed the conservatory system, as also later when establishing nine music schools in New York, Ohio, Indiana and Pennsylvania (1870–88). With Johnson’s encouragement, Theodore Presser, a former student and instructor at Johnson’s Miami Conservatory of Music in Xenia, Ohio, founded the Music Teachers National Association, assisted by another former pupil of Johnson’s, William H. Dana.
Johnson produced 36 music books, two pasticcio cantatas, and about 500 compositions, mostly tunes, anthems and gospel music.