Alumni in Motion: Michigan State Freshman Will Johnson (2017)

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Lily Gould

Will Johnson is well-known around Lake Forest as being an outstanding performer with a powerful voice. While enrolled at  Lake Forest High School, he was a member of Foresters, Madrigals, and even performed several numbers for the annual Talent Show, including singing in the famous Thunder Road Band. I was able to talk to him and ask him some questions regarding his music major at Michigan State University in East Lansing and his day-to-day college life.

Currently, Johnson is a freshman enrolled at Michigan State. He began his undergraduate study taking mainly general education courses, but is also focusing on Music and Vocal Performance, his current major. Music and Vocal Performance is a basic performance degree and, in his opinion, isn’t as intense as the mainstream Bachelor of Arts programs. If you aren’t aware of the difference, the Bachelor of Arts is a liberal arts program that provides students with artistic training and preparation within a strenuous musical field. The Bachelor of Music degree in Music and Vocal performance is based on performance and music education; it offers many performance opportunities to students.

Currently, he is taking eight classes; six of these classes are music-related. He is in choir, studio class, ear training, piano instruction class, music theory class, and English diction class. He is also taking voice lessons on the side. He informed me that his English diction class is required to be taken each semester. When he mentioned his about piano class, I was surprised to hear that this is a mandatory class. He told me that he has never taken piano lessons before, and he has always done it by ear. Piano is actually quite difficult for him, but is crucial to learn when getting involved in a music career. This is currently the only instrument that he is playing due to his busy schedule.

For his major, he is expected and required to perform. So far, he has only sang for the faculty and some students, but other than that hasn’t really had an official performance. He does have one for his English diction class next week and is practicing for his recital for voice lessons and choir performances at the end of the first semester. After hearing about all his courses and performances, it sounded like a lot, but he ensured me that he still feels like he is able to enjoy the process.

In terms of class size, there are around forty students in his Music Theory class and others are around ten students. With smaller class sizes, it allows students to be able to step out of their comfort zone and form closer relationships with their instructor. In these cases, he usually sings classical music; he starts out with art songs early in his undergrad and transforms into arias from operas. One of his personal favorites is Old English musical theatre music.

Being a previous member of Bel Cantos and current member of Madrigals myself, I was eager to hear if there are any acapella groups around campus. To my surprise, he said there are a bunch of acapella groups, and they consist of all girl or all boy groups. He even added that there is some beat boxing that goes down. Yet,, he isn’t currently involved and doesn’t intend on joining any time soon.

Finally, we got down to the big question: does he see himself pursuing music after college? “Music has always been his passion,” he said, “and it’s definitely a serious option for me.” But it still seems too early to tell if Johnson will be singing professionally in four years time.. If he were to go into music, ideally, he would want to be a recording artist or perform in a more modern aspect. Still, he  also thinks it would be fun to go on tour with a more contemporary group.

Lastly, he shared some of the struggles that come along with being a performer. As a performer myself, I know that it requires lots of time and dedication, as does everything. That said, being a performer in the music industry can be quite competitive, but for a guy like Lake Forest’s Will Johnson, who has been performing for years, a career blossoms along with the right attitude.