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Professor’s compositions connect students, faculty, and Portland community

March 04, 2013

Lewis & Clark students have no shortage of opportunities to enjoy music on- and off-campus, but Michael Johanson, assistant professor of music, amplifies educational experiences by sharing the genesis and realization of his own creative work with his students.

“It is important to me that my students face the considerable challenges inherent in the creative process with courage and with the right tools,” Johanson said. “It is essential for students of composition to have models as they work to develop the many skills needed in the compositional process, and I strive to give them a sense of how the entire process unfolds through inviting them to experience and reflect on the music I create for performance both on- and off-campus.”

Portland has a rich contemporary music scene, and Johanson strives to connect his students to it as often as possible. This spring, he has invited students and community members to attend several performances of his compositions throughout the city.

“I enjoy inviting fine musicians who have performed my music to campus to meet students and to perform their works,” Johanson said. “I also enjoy arranging group outings to various concerts and events.”

One recent concert has special meaning for Johanson. On Friday, March 1, his composition Fanfares and Elegies premiered at a concert of the Northwest Horn Orchestra. The work was written in memory of Johanson’s colleague Franya Berkman, a music professor who lost a yearlong struggle with cancer in August.

“I was commissioned to write Fanfares and Elegies shortly before Franya’s passing, and dealing with the loss of such a beloved friend and colleague seemed to consume my every thought around that time,” Johanson said. “Franya was an amazing and beautiful individual in so many ways. She had a fierce passion for her loved ones and for her work as a multi-talented musician, scholar, and educator. Reflections on all of these characteristics and many more aspects of Franya’s character found musical embodiment in the work.”

Johanson’s work will also be part of the March Music Moderne festival and the Lewis & Clark faculty ensemble’s spring concert. All events are open to the public.

Upcoming performances:
  • Free Marz Trio performing March After Stravinsky during March Music Moderne: March 8, 8 p.m.
  • Friends of Rain, Lewis & Clark faculty new music ensemble, performing Bagatelle After BeethovenMarch 16, 7:30 p.m.


Department of Music


Blue Lassiter CAS ’15 contributed to this story.  


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