“WLU is a good choice for serious music students. The faculty are professional, personable and always there for the students. I enjoyed my time there immensely and enjoy returning,” said music educator and artist Curtis Johnson recently.

Johnson is a renowned R&B performer and has backed stars like Ray Charles, Little Anthony, Aretha Franklin, The Temptations, Chubby Checker, Chuck Berry, Isaac Hayes, Lou Rawls, The Spinners, Dionne Warwick, Martha Reeves, Cheryl Lynn — and is currently touring with Landau Eugene Murphy, Jr.
Curtis Johnson '81
Most recently, he was one of 217 music teachers from 195 cities across 45 states announced as quarterfinalists for the first ever Music Educator Award presented by The Recording Academy® and the GRAMMY Foundation®. In total, more than 30,000 initial nominations were submitted from all 50 states.

He also performs freelance and has completed many successful tours of Europe for more than 30 years. Since 2008 he performed in several International Jazz Festivals in Russia. In addition he performs with the Pittsburgh Jazz Orchestra under the direction of world-renowned trumpeter Sean Jones.

He was guest soloist with WLU’s own jazz ensemble in 2011 and has never forgotten his happy times on the Hilltop.

Now a retired associate professor of music at West Virginia University, this alumnus taught at WVU for more than 20 years. After earning his Bachelor of Music degree at West Liberty, he earned a Master of Music degree in saxophone performance at WVU. Johnson has been an adjunct faculty member at Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania, West Virginia Wesleyan College, Washington & Jefferson College and at his alma mater WLU.

As active as he has been in his performance career, Johnson has never left the classroom. Jazz education continues to be his forte. He began his career as director of jazz studies at WVU, taking several large ensembles and small groups to regional conferences and national performances.

He has conducted numerous all-star high school and college bands, including The 1996 Maryland All-State Jazz Ensemble. Johnson also has served as artistic director for the Krakow (Poland) School for Jazz and Contemporary Music Summer Jazz Academy.

Creative Music Solutions, an organization run by Johnson since 2001, has sponsored numerous tours to Europe with various performing groups since 2002 and began sponsoring high school and college music group tours to Europe during summer 2005.

Johnson also is an artist/clinician for the Yamaha Corporation of America Band and Orchestra Division.

Classically, Johnson has performed on numerous North American Saxophone Alliance Conference programs, World Saxophone Congress programs and national Saxophone Symposium programs. He has performed as soloist with the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra, the Wheeling Symphony Orchestra and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.

Listen to a Curtis Johnson performance by clicking here.