Alum Returns to Direct Bands

By Rachel Phelps (’09)
July 15, 2014
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Luke Johnson (‘03) loves teaching music. So it was a sacrifice when he quit his full-time position as director of bands at Lansing High School in Lansing, Kan., to pursue a Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA) in wind conducting at University of Kansas last year. His goal was to eventually teach at the college level.

“Mostly, I wanted to be a better teacher,” Johnson says. “I needed this kind of program to help me excel and learn things I couldn’t learn on my own.”

Little did Johnson dream that he would have the opportunity to start teaching at the university level so soon. While still in his doctoral studies, Johnson began teaching at MNU last spring as an adjunct instructor. This fall he joins MNU’s faculty full-time to teach Secondary Methods for Music Education, Fundamentals of Music Theory, and conduct both Concert Band and Jazz Band.

Johnson says his studies focus on performance and practical conducting rather than research and theory. He is also working with the KU bands, including the Marching Jayhawks. This, added to a decade of teaching and directing experience, will be a bonus to his MNU students.

“This hands on experience has helped provide me with a large tool bag of pedagogy, rehearsal techniques, and musical taste.  When the position at MNU came available, I was able to apply many of things I was learning directly to the ensemble at MNU.”


“I am passionate about training future music educators, and the mission of MNU is close to my heart.  Being an alum, I love MNU and what it stands for and have a vision for what this band and music department can achieve,” said Johnson.

Johnson is looking forward to being on campus full-time and building relationships with the students. His goal is to foster an atmosphere for musical expression, education, and performance

“I get excited teaching and experiencing the music together with the ensemble.  There is nothing better than helping the ensemble ‘realize’ the music as we work through the creative process,” Johnson said.

One thing Johnson remembers from his own MNU experience is the emphasis on servant leadership, and he is excited to see that hasn’t changed. He also appreciates the fact that professors are encouraged to express their spiritual nature at MNU.

“Having spent over 10 years in public education, you forget what a privilege it is to be able to initiate prayer with your students in an open way.  I remember being struck by this when I came to MNU as a freshman. When my professors prayed and gave devotionals in class, I was awestruck.  I had a similar reaction this time coming back to MNU, although this time, it was me as the professor sharing and praying with my students,” said Johnson.

While Johnson is most excited about getting to work with the bands – particularly the opportunity to work with jazz music again – he also wants to foster the experience of servant leadership among all his students, particularly those headed into the education field.

“We certainly need Christian educators in the public schools, and that is a ministry all its own.  I feel I can help prepare our students who will be going into this environment after graduating,” said Johnson.