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Laura Whitney-Johnson is a composer and advocate for new music and currently serves as Artistic Director for newEar Contemporary Chamber Ensemble. As a composer, she draws inspiration from folk music, American avant-garde, Western classical repertoire, and popular styles like jazz and bluegrass. Born and raised in Aurora, Nebraska, Laura studied piano and played clarinet, vibraphone, and marimba in band and began composing around age 14. Later, as a student at the University of Kansas, she discovered a new passion for choral singing and spent the next several years performing with KU Concert Choir, KU Chamber Choir, and KU Jazz Singers. Laura has worked as a piano teacher, choral accompanist, solo accompanist, and composer of educational music for children. She holds Master of Music and Bachelor of Music degrees in Music Composition, both from UMKC Conservatory, as well as a Bachelor of Arts degree in Spanish and Global Studies from the University of Kansas. As a student at UMKC, she has served as president, vice president, secretary, and public relations chair of the UMKC Composers' Guild, helping to produce concerts of student works and connect composition students with professional performance and networking opportunities. Laura has studied composition with Paul Rudy, Chen Yi, Yotam Haber, Zhou Long, Mara Gibson, Kip Haaheim, and Forrest Pierce and participated in small workshops with Amy Williams, Amy Beth Kirsten, Kaija Saariaho, Dmitri Tymoczko, David Ludwig, Giovanni Albini, Jennifer Higdon, and Samuel Adler. Her music has been commissioned by pianist Bridget O'Leary and violist Alyssa Bell Jackson, violist Katerina Shapochka, percussionist Derek Frank, and saxophonist/composer Kameron Sheffield and has been performed by newEar Contemporary Chamber Ensemble (Kansas City), JACK Quartet (New York), Transient Canvas (Boston), Ensemble +47 (Oslo, Norway), and the Crossroads Quartet (Kansas City). She participated in the 2019 highSCORE Festival in Pavia, Italy, and was accepted to the 2020 New Music on the Point Festival in Vermont, and she received an honorable mention in the 2019 Missouri Composers Project for her SATB choral piece, 3 teachings on poverty (2017). Laura lives in Kansas City, Missouri with her husband, jazz trumpeter Tommy Johnson, and their three cats.


Photo by Bill Whitney 

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