Dynamic Leader Joins Community Music School in Detroit

Educator, trumpeter, composer, and arranger Kris Johnson is the new director of the MSU Community Music School in Detroit.


The Michigan State University College of Music is pleased to announce that educator, trumpeter, and composer Kristopher Johnson is the new director of one of the College’s flagship outreach programs, the Community Music School-Detroit (CMS-D). He begins his work at CMS-D on November 15, 2021.

“Following a national search, I am delighted with the appointment of Kris as our new director in Detroit,” said College of Music Dean James Forger. “He brings significant experience as a prominent jazz artist, an effective educator at major universities, an arts consultant and administrator, and as a successful market strategist. He will be a tremendous asset to our leadership team.”

Forger said that Johnson, a Detroit native, has a passion for the work of CMS-D as it brings the power of music to students, families, and the broader community.

“Kris has proven to be a successful collaborator and leader among the Metro-Detroit arts education community, and I am confident his leadership for our organization – with its strong staff, exceptional faculty, and generous stakeholders – will bring CMS-D to a new level of impact and collaboration,” Forger added.

Johnson has served in the role of director of jazz studies at the University of Utah, as a project director for the Pontiac School District, and as the Education and Digital Programming Manager for the Motown Museum in Detroit. He also led a U.S. Department of Education Arts in Education Grant, and he has served on the teaching faculty at The Ohio State University and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra Civic Youth Ensembles. His experience also includes working as an artistic liaison for JazzEd Detroit through a partnership with ArtOps and the Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Family Foundation.

CMS-D opened its doors in fall 2009, the second CMS location following the success of the original location in East Lansing, which opened in 1993. Located in Detroit’s Cultural Corridor to serve Metro Detroit residents, CMS-D offers youth and adult classes and ensembles. Students participate in lessons for any instrument, voice, jazz, concert band, choir, early childhood music or music therapy, and CMS-D provides significant need-based tuition assistance. A variety of summer camps for youth take place each year, and programs are added in response to community need.

“As a product of Detroit’s arts scene, I know first-hand the impact that dynamic musical programming has on our community,” Johnson said. “This exciting position is a continuation of my dedication to mentoring future leaders in the industry, fostering the talent of our youth, and bridging the accessibility gap for education and technology in our city.”

In addition to being a teacher and arts administrator, Kris Johnson is a sought-after jazz trumpeter who also composes and arranges.

Johnson received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Jazz Studies from Michigan State University in 2005 and 2007, respectively, and since then he has proven himself in the music business as a Grammy-nominated composer, arranger, and trumpeter. As a touring member of the Count Basie Orchestra, he has been a featured soloist on tours around the world and is one of the first-call arrangers for the legendary ensemble.

“What impressed the search committee so much about Kris is his commitment to education. He is a highly sought-after clinician, he has taught master classes and led workshops for many educational institutions including MSU, and he is the creator and curator of a series of distance learning courses that teach music theory and music technology to students from many backgrounds and levels of musical development,” said Rhonda Buckley-Bishop, interim director of CMS-D. “His dedication and technical savvy will serve this organization, our students and families well.”

Johnson, a 2012 Kresge Fellow and a recipient of the 2013 ASCAP Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composers Award, is a frequently commissioned composer and arranger. He sees exciting opportunities ahead to use his diverse professional experiences for the benefit of CMS-D.

“The commitment CMS-D has to the City of Detroit is strong, and we will continue to nurture our partnership by working together for our entire community,” Johnson said. “I want to thank MSU for the honor of serving in this capacity, and I want to thank the College of Music and CMS-D faculty and staff for their tireless dedication to music education.”


From the Web