Craig Hella Johnson

One of today’s most influential voices in choral conducting, Craig Hella Johnson is Conspirare’s founding artistic director.

Known for his depth of knowledge, artistic sensitivity, and rich imagination, Craig Hella Johnson assembles some of the finest singers in the country to form a world-class, GRAMMY®-award-winning ensemble committed to creating relevant and dynamic choral art. Johnson is known for crafting musical journeys that create deep connections between performers and listeners.

Critical Acclaim

Johnson is beloved by audiences, revered by singers, and lauded by critics and composers. The Wall Street Journal praised his ability to “find the emotional essence other performers often miss,” and Fanfare wrote that “Craig Hella Johnson has assembled and molded a first-rate choir to be respected as highly as the best we have had.”

Distinguished composer John Corigliano wrote, “I believe that [Johnson] has understood my music in a way that I have never experienced before. He is a great musician who understands everything about the music he conducts.” Composer and collaborator Robert Kyr observed, “Craig’s attitude toward creating a community of artists who work together to interpret the score … goes beyond technical mastery into that emotional depth and spiritual life of the music.”

Of Johnson’s performance of Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis, the San Antonio Express-News wrote: “Through all the amazing ebbs and flows of dynamics, the radiant balances, the seamless connection of episodes, the theatrically astute tempo relations, the unified structural arc, the music shone forth with organic naturalness. Nothing sounded fussed over. Everything just sounded right.”

Honors and Awards

  • Texas State University Presidential Award for Excellence in Scholarly/Creative Activities (2022).
  • Dennis Dougherty Award for Community Leadership from Matthew Shepard Foundation (2021).
  • The Michael Korn Founders Award for Development of the Professional Choral Art, Chorus America’s lifetime achievement award (2015).
  • Best Choral Performance GRAMMY® for conducting Conspirare on the CD The Sacred Spirit of Russia (Harmonia Mundi label) (2014).
  • Texas State Musician, only the second classical musician to receive this honor (2013).
  • Invited Speaker for TEDxAustin (2012).
  • Panelist for the Fetzer Institute and Eranos Foundation’s “Love and the Musical Arts” gathering in Switzerland (2011).
  • Mu Phi Epsilon (professional music fraternity) Citation of Merit, the organization’s highest honor for a non-member (2011).
  • Chorus America’s Louis Botto Award for Innovative Action and Entrepreneurial Zeal (2009).
  • Austin Arts Hall of Fame (2008).

Composer and Arranger

Johnson’s concert-length composition, Considering Matthew Shepard, was premiered in 2016 by Conspirare and has been performed by 40 choirs across the world. Songs from the oratorio are part of the high school and college compeitition repertoire.

As an arranger, Johnson has a signature “collage” style, marrying music and poetry, and blending sacred and secular, classical and contemporary, traditional and popular styles. He publishes the Craig Hella Johnson Choral Series, featuring specially selected composers as well as some of his original compositions and arrangements, with G. Schirmer Publishing. His works are also published by Alliance Music Publications.

Educator and Conductor

Johnson is also music director of the Cincinnati Vocal Arts Ensemble, artist in residence at Texas State University, and conductor emeritus of the Victoria Bach Festival.

Johnson was Artistic Director of San Francisco-based Chanticleer (1998-1999) and has served as guest conductor with the Austin Symphony, San Antonio Symphony, and many others in Texas, the U.S., and abroad.

As the Director of Choral Activities at the University of Texas at Austin from 1990-2001, Johnson led the graduate program in choral conducting. He remains an active educator, teaching nationally and internationally with professionals and students at conferences and universities. He is also a frequent speaker at regional and national conferences of the American Choral Directors Association. Craig Hella Johnson joined the faculty at Texas State as Artist in Residence in fall 2016 and continues to inspire his colleagues and students in innovative teaching and programming as Professor of Practice.


A Minnesota native, Johnson graduated from St. Olaf College, the Juilliard School, and the University of Illinois, earning his doctorate at Yale University. As the recipient of a National Arts Fellowship, Johnson studied with Helmuth Rilling at the International Bach Academy in Stuttgart, Germany. He lives in Austin with his husband.

Published Compositions and Arrangements

Craig Hella Johnson’s published works can be purchased through Alliance Music and Hal Leonard. If you are interested in a title that is not listed, please email us:

Please see other titles in the Craig Hella Johnson Schirmer Choral Series.