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Shersten Johnson

Professor, Chair of Music Department

Music

  • Expertise
  • Music Theory, Composition
  • Research Interests
  • Contemporary opera and art song, embodied cognition, disability studies and theories of music pedagogy

Shersten Johnson, Professor of Music, teaches the full spectrum of music theory and composition courses at the University of St. Thomas.

Dr. Johnson’s interests include contemporary opera and art song, as well as embodied cognition, disability studies and theories of music pedagogy. She has presented her research in the United States, Canada, Europe, Hong Kong and Australia. Her publications appear in journals such as Music Theory Spectrum, Music & Letters, Music Theory Online, Opera Today, PsyArt, Music Educator's Journal, Engaging Students: Essays in Music Pedagogy and The Journal of Music and Meaning. She is author of “Understanding is Seeing: Music Analysis and Blindness” in the Oxford Handbook of Music and Disability Studies, “Recitatives and Late Style in Britten’s Death in Venice” in Benjamin Britten: A Century of Inspiration, "Embodied Rhythm and Musical Impact of Ritualized Violence in 20th-century Opera" in the Oxford Handbook on Music and the Body and “Music Analysis and Accessibility in the Music Theory Classroom,” in the Routledge Companion to Music Theory Pedagogy.

In addition to teaching and research, Dr. Johnson is active in the Society for Music Theory and serves as Chair of the Music Department.

Dr. Johnson received her PhD in Music Theory from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a doctoral minor in Composition, a MM in Composition from California State University-Northridge and a BA in Music from Augsburg College, where her emphasis was in flute performance.


Peer-Reviewed Publications

“Music Analysis and Accessibility in the Music Theory Classroom,” in the Routledge Companion to Music Theory Pedagogy, ed. L. VanHandel (Routledge Press, 2019). https://www.routledge.com/The-Routledge-Companion-to-Music-Theory-Pedagogy-1st-Edition/VanHandel/p/book/9781138585010

“Inter-diegetic Play in the Met’s Simulcasts,” in Opera in the Digital Age, ed. J. Naumann, (forthcoming).

“Embodied Rhythm and Musical Impact of Ritualized Violence in 20th-century Opera,” in Oxford Handbook on Music and the Body, ed. S. Gilman and Y. Kim (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019) pp. 221-240. https://clicsearch.stthomas.edu/permalink/f/1afvb1q/TN_ouporr10.1093/oxfordhb/9780190636234.001.0001

“Recitatives and Late Style in Britten’s Death in Venice” in Essays on Benjamin Britten from a Century Symposium, ed. Q. Ankrum, D. Forrest, S. Jocoy, and E. Yates (Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2017), 207-224. https://www.cambridgescholars.com/essays-on-benjamin-britten-from-a-centenary-symposium

“Coalescing Learning around a Coltrane Classic,” Engaging Students: Essays in Music Pedagogy 4 (2016) www.flipcamp.org/engagingstudents4/essays/johnson.html.

“Understanding is Seeing: Music Analysis and Blindness,” in Oxford Handbook on Music and Disability Studies, ed. B. Howe, S. Jensen-Moulton, N. Lerner, and J. Straus (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015), 131-154.

"Re-composition as Low-Stakes Analysis,” Engaging Students: Essays in Music Pedagogy 2 (2015) www.flipcamp.org/engagingstudents2/essays/johnson.html.

“The Intellectual and Inspiration: Sounds of Sense and Sensuality in Aschenbach’s Venice,” The International Journal of the Arts in Society 4/2 (2009): 291-302.

“Notational Systems and Conceptualizing Music: A Case Study of Print and Braille Notation,” Music Theory Online 15/4 (2009) www.mto.societymusictheory.org/issues/mto.09.15.3/toc.15.3.html.

"At a Loss for Words: Writer’s Block in Death in Venice,” PsyArt: An online journal for the psychological study of the arts, (2008) www.clas.ufl.edu/ipsa/journal/index.shtml

“Strange, Strange Hallucination: Dozing and Dreaming in Benjamin Britten’s Death in Venice,” Journal of Music and Meaning 5 (2007) www.musicandmeaning.net/index.php.

“Britten’s Musical Syllables,” Music and Letters 86/4 (2005): 592-622.

Reviews and Other Articles

Review of Benjamin Britten Studies: Essays on an Inexplicit Art. Edited by Vicki P. Stroeher and Justin Vickers. Notes: Quarterly Journal of the Music Library Association (2019)

Review of Making Musicians: A Personal History of the Britten-Pears School by Moira Bennet, Notes: Quarterly Journal of the Music Library Association 70/3 (2014): 444-46

Review of Extraordinary Measures: Disability in Music by Joseph Straus, Notes: Quarterly Journal of the Music Library Association 68/3 (2012): 599-601.

“Braille Music Notation,” in Encyclopedia of American Disability History, ed. Susan Burch, Vol. I (New York: Facts on File, 2009), 140. www.factsonfile.infobasepublishing.com

Review of Aspects of British Music of the 1990s ed. Peter O’Hagan, Music Educator’s Journal 92/1 (2005): 25

Review of Britten: Folk Song Arrangements, Opera Today (2005) www.operatoday.com/content/2005/07/britten_folk_so_1.php

Review of L’Upupa oder Der Triumph der Sohnesliebe, by Hans Werner Henze, Opera Today (2005). www.operatoday.com/content/2005/06/henze_lupupa_od.php

Review of Britten’s Musical Language by Phillip Rupprecht, Music Theory Spectrum 27/1 (2005): 138-45.

Review of Reading Opera Between the Lines by Christopher Morris, Opera Today (2005). www.operatoday.com/content/2005/06/morris_reading.php

Review of Britten, Voice and Piano: Lectures on the vocal music of Benjamin Britten by Graham Johnson, Music Educator’s Journal 91/3 (2005): 61.

Dissertation

“Hearing the Unvoiceable: Writer’s Block in Benjamin Britten’s Death in Venice,” PhD dissertation, The University of Wisconsin–Madison, 2004, 325 pages, Ann Arbor: UMI


Teaching Enhancement Grant, “Beyond chorale part-writing in music theory classes,” University of St. Thomas, Summer 2020.

Sabbatical, “Film Adaptation in 21st-Century Operas,” University of St. Thomas, Spring 2018

Partnership-in-Learning Grant, “Metropolitan Opera Research,” University of St. Thomas, Summer 2017

Research Grant, “Inter-storyline Connections in the Metropolitan Opera’s Live in HD Simulcasts,” University of St. Thomas, Fall 2016

Teaching Enhancement Grant, “Integrating Universal Design principles into a Music Theory I course,” University of St. Thomas, Summer 2016

Partnership-in-Learning Grant, “Conceptualizing Music Notation,” University of St. Thomas, Spring 2015

Faculty Partnership Grants, “The Blues: Musical Theory and Indigenous Practice,” University of St. Thomas, Summer 2014

Research Grant, “Understanding is Seeing: Music Analysis and Blindness” University of St. Thomas, Fall 2013

Faculty Partnership Grant, “Integrating Scholarly Knowledge with Personal Remembrance,” University of St. Thomas, Spring 2012

Undergraduate Collaborative Scholarship Grants, University of St. Thomas, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2012

Sabbatical, The Musical Impact of HD Simulcasts on the Opera-going Experience,” University of St. Thomas, Fall 2010

Sudden Opportunity Grant, University of St. Thomas, Fall 2009

Teaching Enhancement Grant, University of St. Thomas, Summer 2009

Bush Foundation Program Grants, University of St. Thomas, Fall 2008, Fall & Spring 2005

Westrup Prize for Distinguished Article: “Britten’s Musical Syllables,” Music & Letters, January 2006

Distinguished Visitor Grant, University of St. Thomas, Spring 2004

Indiana University Press Award for outstanding student paper, “Dissolution and Disillusion: Britten’s ‘Musical Syllables,’” awarded by AMS–Midwest, 2001

First Prize, Wisconsin Alliance for Composers “Ear and Now” contest for new music, 2000


“Expanding the Sensorium of Understanding in the Music Theory Classroom,” College Music Society Great Lakes conference, Michigan, 2020 (cancelled due to COVID-19)

“Setting Atwood’s Dystopian Sound World in The Handmaid’s Tale,” Opera and Popular Culture after 1900 conference, Fort Worth, 2020

“Multimodal Figments and Phantom Characters in Live-streamed Opera,” American Musicological Society Midwest, Detroit, 2019, also accepted to the Multimodality: Illusion, Performance, Experience conference, Aarhus Institute, Aarhus, Denmark, October, 2019

“Reconfigured Audiovisual Spaces in the Met’s HD Productions,” Opera and Musical Theater in the United States conference at Middle Tennessee State University, March 2018

“Music Analysis and Accessibility in the Music Theory Classroom,” Pedagogy into Practice conference, Cleveland, TN, 2017

“Music and Meaning,” Senior College of West Central Minnesota, Alexandria, MN, 2017, Selim Center, University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, MN 2016

“Performance Gestures and idealized Listening in the Met’s Pasquale Simulcast,” Porto International Conference on Musical Gesture as Creative Interface, Porto, Portugal, March 2016

“Writer’s Burnout to Writer’s Block: The Britten-Piper Adaptation of Mann’s Der Tod in Venedig,” Modern Language Association, Austin, TX, January 2016

“Expanding the Sensorium in the Music Theory Classroom,” Society for Disability Studies annual conference, Atlanta, 2015

“Disability Style in Britten’s Venice Recitatives,” Music Theory Midwest annual conference, Appleton, WI, April 2014

“Recitatives and Late Style in Britten’s Death in Venice,” Benjamin Britten: 100 Years of Inspiration conference, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX, October 2013

“Understanding is Seeing: Music Analysis and Blindness,” Oxford Handbook on Music and Disability Studies Authors’ Conference, New York City, NY, May 2013

“Extraordinary Bodies and Voices,” American Musicological Society, Midwest Chapter, Iowa City, IA, April 2013

“Refiguring Disfigurement in Petitgirard’s Joseph Merrick, the Elephant Man,” Society for Disability Studies annual conference, Denver, CO, June 2012

“Cruel Rhythms and Musical Blows” Music and the Body Conference, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong S.A.R., March, 2012

“When Offstage Becomes Onscreen: Contested Spaces in the Met’s Simulcasts,” Music and the Moving Image Conference, NYU, New York, NY, May 2011

“Sound Gags: Mozart, Mirth, and Metaphor,” College Music Society National Conference, Minneapolis, MN, September 2010

“Notational Systems and Conceptualizing Music: a case study of print and braille notation,” Society for Music Theory National Conference, Nashville, TN November 2008; Society for Disability Studies, CUNY, New York City, NY, June 2008; Music Theory Midwest, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS, April 2007

“Songs and Proverbs of William Blake,” commentary on Britten’s song cycle performed by Dr. Alan Bryan and Dr. Andrew Hisey in two sessions with University of St. Thomas English students, March 2007

“‘And then it hit me:’ Inspiration as Gesture” International Conference on Music and Gesture, Manchester, UK, July 2006

“Blending Meaning and Music in The Rape of Lucretia” and “Britten’s ‘Musical Syllables’” Invited speaker, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, April 2006

“Songs of Experience: Sonic Codes and Settings,” Symposium on Music and Poetry at DePauw University, Greencastle, IN, February 2006

“Strange, Strange Hallucination: Hearing Altered States of Musical Consciousness” Music Theory Midwest, Oberlin, OH, May 2005

“Comparing Notes” College Music Society, Pacific Southern Regional Chapter Meeting, March 2005

“Sonic Transformations and Operatic Narrative in Britten’s Death in Venice” Symposium of the International Musicological Society, Melbourne, Australia, July 2004; Narrative: An International Conference, East Lansing, MI, April 2002

“Breathing Life into Britten’s “Ah! Sun-flower” Music Theory Midwest, Kansas City, MO, 2004; West Coast Conference on Theory and Analysis, Santa Barbara, CA, 2004; International Conference on Music and Gesture, Norwich, UK, 2003

“Creativity in Death in Venice: Hearing Writer's Block in Britten's Opera and Visconti's Film” University of St. Thomas Faculty Showcase, Saint Paul, MN, February 2004

“At a Loss for Words: Writer’s Block in Benjamin Britten’s Death in Venice” American Musicological Society, Houston, TX, November 2003; Society for Music Theory Annual Meeting, Madison, WI, November 2003; West Coast Conference on Music and Analysis, Victoria, BC, April 2002

“Dissolution and Disillusion: Britten’s ‘Musical Syllables’” Society for Music Theory Annual Meeting, Columbus, OH, November 2002; Music Theory Midwest, Cincinnati, OH, April 2001; American Musicological Society, Midwest Chapter, Kansas City, KS, March 2001

“Hearing the Unspoken in Britten’s Death in Venice” Society of Composers Inc. Region VI Conference, Lawrence, KS, March 2001; Musical Intersections (Society for Music Theory), Toronto, ON, November 2000; New Music and Art Festival, Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, OH, October 2000