Professor Profile: Dr. Mark Johnson, Director of Bands


Courtesy of Mark Johnson

Dr. Mark Johnson

Dr. Mark Johnson has joined Wilkes University as the new Director of Bands.

Johnson received his Bachelor of Music Education from Winthrop University in South Carolina in 2008.

In 2012 he earned his Master of Music Performance in Wind Conducting also from Winthrop. Finally, Johnson achieved his Doctorate of Musical Arts in Wind Conducting from The University of Southern Mississippi this past year.

“I’ve always been involved with music,” Johnson explained. “Ever since I was a young child I was singing in choirs. I started playing the piano at age seven.”

When Johnson first went off to college, he decided to major in music after having great experiences playing with local professional musicians in South Carolina.

Johnson’s calling to become an educator sprung up in August 2008, where he had his first rehearsal with a college band. At that moment, he fell in love with the idea of band in college.

“I made the decision that I wanted to stand in front of a collegiate ensemble and teach at the college level,” Johnson said.

Johnson then taught in public schools in North and South Carolina from 2008 to 2016. During that time, he also spent most of his time as the band director for the Northwest School of the Arts in Charlotte in North Carolina.

Alumni of that school went on to star in Broadway shows, tour with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra and played with The NPG, Prince’s backing band. Others have toured with famous musical artists, including Cee-lo Green, Lionel Richie and many others.

Johnson loved his time as a middle and high school teacher. In fact, he explained, he could not see himself doing anything else other than teaching students.

As a product of a small college, Johnson highly values the small college experience. He appreciates that, in those smaller institutions like Wilkes, students have many opportunities that are not present at larger ones. He views a small classroom as a benefit to every student’s education, as it enables professors to make meaningful connections with each student.

As such, Johnson explained that he is “continually surprised” by the community here.

“This is the most community-oriented campus I’ve ever been on,” he explained.

“Students greet you all across campus and seek out conversations with you. Professors and staff are not just out for themselves, but instead to help to create a web of support that makes the transition to Wilkes a wonderful experience,” he added.

Now that he has settled in on campus, Johnson teaches in the department of performing arts as the Director of Bands. His primary job is to direct the Wilkes Civic Band, the Marching Colonels, and the Wilkes Pep Band.

Aside from directing all of Wilkes’ bands, Johnson creates a daily rehearsal plan, manages staff, executes the rehearsal plan and recruits students to the campus and its bands. He also has a working relationship with coaches and the athletic department to support student-athletes at various games.

Johnson teaches in the music theory curriculum. Under Johnson’s wing, students develop performance skills on their instruments, allowing them to collaborate and perform with the entire musical ensemble.

Johnson’s favorite moment of teaching is what he calls the “lightbulb moment,” describing it as, “when students finally grasp something they didn’t understand and now understand.

An ‘ah-ha’ moment.”

Those favorite moments evolve when Johnson gets to witness his students walk across the stage at graduation. He loves witnessing the fulfillment of his students’ goals and dreams.

When it comes to his favorite artists in the pop setting, Johnson is a big fan of Ben Folds, explaining how Folds “takes a piano and turn it into rock music.” Another favorite is the Beatles, as their music was around him growing up and he still enjoys it today. Johnson also enjoys listening to opera, wind band music and jazz.

Aside from being a skilled musical instructor, Johnson describes himself as a huge nerd. He enjoys playing board games and video games as well as reading.

Even though music is his career, Johnson said that he still enjoys practicing and creating music. In the end, he describes music as a “passion that goes beyond the teaching day.”