ISO Alum (’86) Robert L. Johnston’s association with ISO began in 1985, as principal bassist of what is now the ISO Symphony. When not directing the Morningside and ISO at Turtle Bay Orchestras he has, since 1997, been Director of String Studies at St. Francis Preparatory School, guiding a program that has grown to include three orchestras, an alumni orchestra and six beginner classes, consistently numbering over 150 musicians. Since 2005, Prep Orchestras under Mr. Johnston’s direction have been involved in one hundred-two events featuring fifty-two different programs. In the last two years alone, Prep’s Chamber Orchestra has performed thirty-four times, presenting eleven different programs in three different countries. Prep’s Chamber Orchestra participates in annual side-by-side rehearsals with ISO’s Morningside and ISO at Turtle Bay Orchestras, mentoring their young counterparts in alternate years. In addition to his teaching duties, Mr. Johnston has served on numerous committees, mentored new teachers, and is presently Prep’s Co-Internal Coordinator for their current Middle States Association Re-accreditation period. Most notably during this tenure, Prep was the first school ever to receive the Middle States Association’s Music Credential.
Mr. Johnston’s ensembles (and some of his arrangements and compositions) have been featured on Good Day New York, Nickelodeon, The Prayer Channel, as well as two different Italian television stations. Mr. Johnston’s students have performed for the Queens Borough President, officials from the United Nations, and the Bishops of Brooklyn and Rockville Center. In April of 2008, Prep’s Chamber Orchestra performed for an international audience including His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, President and then Senator Clinton, Vice-President and Mrs. Cheney and Mayor Bloomberg for the pontiff’s Formal Diplomatic Departure Ceremony. In October 2008, they helped celebrate St. Francis Prep’s 150th Anniversary by participating in the live telecast of the school’s 150th Anniversary Mass and subsequent black-tie gala. That December featured a Christmas concert broadcast on The Prayer Channel (NET). In June 2009, they welcomed His Excellency, Archbishop Timothy Dolan to New York, performing at a special reception. In May 2010, the orchestra performed for the live broadcast of the Mass celebrating Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio’s 40th Anniversary of Ordination, featuring many of Mr. Johnston’s orchestrations. In June and July 2010, Mr. Johnston led Prep’s Chamber Orchestra on a three-concert tour of London. Mr. Johnston was also very active in Prep’s first ever, 12-hour Music Marathon, conducting Prep’s Chamber Orchestra, playing chamber music with ISO colleagues, and performing with the original progressive band, The Wild Koba. In the summer of 2011, Mr. Johnston again led Prep’s Chamber Orchestra on an international tour, this time to Italy. Mr. Johnston’s ISO orchestras have been featured in Ari L. Goldman’s New York Times article “Big Cello, Little Cello,” and David E. Myers’ “Beyond Tradition II,” originally published by the American Symphony Orchestra League.
Mr. Johnston was graduated from The Manhattan School of Music with undergraduate and graduate degrees in Classical Performance, where he also earned the Pablo Casals Award for Musical Accomplishment and Human Endeavor. He went on to earn a Masters of Arts degree in Teaching Music from Lehman College. His professional engagements as a bassist included The New Philharmonic of New Jersey and The Magic Circle Opera Repertory Company, for whom he recorded on the Newport Classics label. He has performed with artists ranging from Peter Serkin and Leon Fleisher to John Faddis and Gunther Schuller. He is also a member of the original progressive band, The Wild Koba. Mr. Johnston studied bass with Orin O’Brien (New York Philharmonic) and Donald Palma (Orpheus Chamber Orchestra), and conducting with Paul Dunkel (American Composer’s Orchestra), Anthony Maiello (George Mason University) and Robert F. Swift (Plymouth State College). Mr. Johnston was the 2008 recipient of St. Francis Preparatory School’s Recognition for Education Excellence Award, and in May 2009, received a New York State Senate Certificate of Merit in recognition of exceptional service as a teacher. He was also sponsored by Prep to study in Assisi and Rome, Italy during July 2008. He is Vice-President of The Bergen Youth Orchestras and guest conducted the BYO Symphony during 2010-2011 season.
Email: Mr. Robert Johnston