Jenny Olivia Johnson

Composer Jenny Olivia Johnson was born in Santa Monica and raised in Claremont, CA. At 18 she moved to New York City to attend Barnard College, and later earned a Masters in Composition at Manhattan School of Music (2002) and a Ph.D. in Music at New York University (2009). She is currently an Assistant Professor of Music at Wellesley College, where she teaches courses in composition, theory, computer music, and music and philosophy.

Her music, which has been described as “gorgeous, ominous, and hypnotic” by the Boston Globe, “stunning in its simplicity and power” by the Boston Musical Intelligencer, “deeply moving and beautiful” by Brian Rosen of, and “iridescent, shimmering, and evocative” by Steve Smith of Time Out New York, ranges from compressed electronic operas and epic pop songs to abstract chamber works, multi-media meditations using amplified instruments and video, and, more recently, installation works involving interactive sound and lighting. Her first installation work, Glass Heart (Bells and Songs for Sylvia Plath) (2013), was commissioned by the Davis Museum at Wellesley College, and is currently on exhibition there until July 2014.

Johnson’s academic work, which focuses on musical synaesthesia, acoustic memory, and childhood trauma, has been published in The Transcultural Music Review and the academic journal Women and Music, and was also the subject of her doctoral dissertation.

Johnson’s honors and awards include the NYU Dean’s Dissertation Fellowship (2008-09), an ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Award (2006), a Metlife Creative Connections Award from New Music USA (2011), two CAP grants from the American Music Center (2006, 2007), the Prix de Composition from the Conservatoire Americain de Fontainebleau (2004), and an Honorable Mention for the 2007 Lise Waxer Prize from the Society for Ethnomusicology. She has held artist residencies at the Atlantic Center for the Arts (2005, 2008) and the Banff Centre for the Arts (2008), and was also a finalist for the 2008 Gaudeamus Prize. She has collaborated with such artists and ensembles as Wild Rumpus, Avant New Media, BMOP (Boston Modern Orchestra Project), Rhymes With Opera, ICE (International Contemporary Ensemble), Alarm Will Sound, the Asko|Schoenberg Ensemble, Ensemble Robot, Bang on a Can, the Arditti Quartet, orkest de ereprijs, Voices of Change, the Young People’s Chorus of New York City, composer and singer Corey Dargel, flutist Janet McKay, soprano Megan Schubert, soprano P. Lucy McVeigh, tenor Aaron Sheehan, cellist David Russell, pianists Eliko Akahori and Jenny Tang, recordist Terri Hron, and New York City Opera, who performed two of her short operas at their VOX Contemporary Opera festivals in 2006 and 2007. Jenny is also a drummer, most recently active with Winter Company (a laptop/percussion duo with composer Paula Matthusen), and indie rock band RENMINBI (now Magnetic Island).

Johnson premiered two works on the 2012 Avant Music Festival, the first time more than one of her works had been performed on a single concert. Johnson’s upcoming album, Don’t Look Back features festival curator Megan Schubert and her works Dollar Beers, Cutter, and Starling which were performed during the festival.