Detroit community music school appoints new principal: Detroit native Kristopher Johnson


When the director of jazz studies at the College of Music Rodney Whitaker was looking for a new director of the Community Music School in Detroit, or CMS-D, he and the rest of the hiring board were looking for someone who knows the Detroit community well.

Kristopher johnson – from Detroit, Michigan State University alumnus, Grammy-nominated educator and songwriter, arranger and trumpeter – is the person they were looking for.

“He’s a very intelligent person; very articulate and really knows the lay of the land, and (is) already so connected within this community, ”said Whitaker.

Whitaker said Johnson had what it took for the managerial post.

“When you run a college outreach program, you have to be prepared to partner with the community,” Whitaker said. “Don’t come as a big university and ‘we’re going to bring these programs to you’, but what can we do to help the community with what they’re already trying to accomplish? “

About MSU Community Music School

The MSU Community Music School in East Lansing opened in 1993 as an outreach tool for the College of Music. It offers music education and therapy to everyone, regardless of age and ability.

CMS-D opened in 2009. It offers continuing education from kindergarten to adult learning for students in the Detroit metro area, Johnson said.

“What’s really wonderful about this program is that we serve students from a very diverse group, in terms of age groups,” Johnson said. “We are really trying to provide opportunities for as many people as possible.”

Johnson’s journey and goals as a director

Prior to becoming director of CMS-D on November 15, Johnson worked for the Motown Museum in Detroit, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra Civic Youth Ensembles, Ohio State University, the University of Utah and more.

Growing up in the Detroit metro area, Johnson attended Southfield-Lathrup High School. Its group director was a former student of MSU Damien Crutcher.

“(Crutcher) really instilled a lot of excellence in me as a musician, and also really encouraged me to be a part of as many youth programs as possible,” Johnson said.

At Southfield-Lathrup, Johnson was Drum Major, Section Leader, and participated in youth ensembles through MSU, the University of Michigan, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, and the Michigan School Band and Orchestra Association, or MSBOA.

“For me it was really important to be as much as possible in the community and really interact with people from different organizations,” Johnson said.

In his new role, Johnson said he focused on helping young people in Detroit, as well as making sure the community knows about CMS-D’s mission and the work it does.

“The power that the arts have to transform lives and to give purpose, to be a means of self-expression and to be a means that we can use to improve ourselves – that was my experience with music in growing up, ”Johnson said. “Anything I can do to help students find something similar is something that I am very passionate about. “

Additionally, Johnson wants to make sure CMS-D has the financial backing it needs.

“Make sure we’re on top of the latest grants,” Johnson said. “Being able to offer our courses and programs either at a subsidized cost, or in some cases even completely free, depending on the needs of the community. “

Whitaker said the College of Music is delighted Johnson is joining them as the new director of CMS-D.

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“We know it will be a rewarding opportunity to have him on staff,” said Whitaker.


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