Craig Hella Johnson

About this artist

Craig Hella Johnson is a conductor and composer known mostly for choral conducting and as the founder of Conspirare. He has led several major ensembles and is an award winner and educator.
Johnson was born on June 15, 1962, in Crow Wing County, Minnesota. He studied piano and voice as a student at St. Olaf College in Minnesota, and graduated in 1984. He continued his studies at the Juilliard School, the University of Illinois, and Yale University, where he earned his doctorate. Upon receiving a National Arts Fellowship, Johnson studied choral conducting at the International Bach Academy in Stuttgart with Helmuth Rilling.
In 1991, Johnson founded the choral group Conspirare and has since served as its artistic director. Conspirare later expanded into a full-time professional choir, and Johnson has led it to numerous award wins and nominations. Johnson and Conspirare have been nominated for six Grammy Awards, winning in 2015 for The Sacred Spirit of Russia. In 2016, Conspirare premiered Johnson’s oratorio Considering Matthew Shepherd.
Aside from leading Conspirare, he has served as the director of choral music at the University of Texas from 1990-2001 and as the artistic director of the vocal group Chanticleer from 1998-1999. He was the conductor and artistic director of the Victoria Bach Festival from 1992-2015, serving as conductor emeritus since 2015. In 2013, he was named the music director of the Vocal Arts Ensemble of Cincinnati, and in 2016, he was named the resident artist in choral music at Texas State University. He has guest conducted the Austin Symphony and the San Antonio Symphony Orchestras, among other ensembles.
Johnson has recorded for several labels, including Harmonia Mundi and Clarion. He led Conspirare on the 2019 Delos album Hope of Living: Choral Music of Jake Runestad, which earned a Grammy nomination.
In 2013, Johnson was named the Texas State Musician, the second classical musician to hold the title. ~ Blair Sanderson & Keith Finke