Natalie Johnson ’21 Lives Life of Music

The recent alumna from Maywood, Ill. will be attending graduate school for oboe performance.
Posted on July 30th, 2021 by

Natalie Johnson was in fourth grade when she first decided to play the oboe. Looking for an instrument to play in her school band, she gravitated towards the instrument for its unique sound and beautiful melodies.

“However, my parents respectfully had me shelve the idea, as the oboe is a difficult and frustrating instrument especially for kids, and isn’t the nicest to listen to starting out,” Johnson said.

Instead, Johnson started her music career singing in choir and playing the guitar and piano. However, when a friend teased her in early high school about not playing a “real instrument,” Johnson saw that as a challenge.

“Although the aforementioned musical instruments absolutely are real instruments, I took this as a dare and began to take oboe lessons. Little did I know that this dare would bring me to my vocation, and completely light up my life through this weird instrument,” Johnson said.

Natalie Johnson graduated in May 2021.

Now a 2021 graduate of Gustavus Adolphus College who majored in music, Johnson is preparing to begin her graduate program in oboe performance at Northwestern University.

“My dream is to become a college professor in oboe as well as performer and composer, and this will be the next step in achieving that,” Johnson said. “My time at Northwestern will be different from Gustavus in that I will be taking only music classes centered around oboe, which will be really strange, but also exciting.”

Though Johnson played the oboe throughout her time at Gustavus, the musician was also involved in the social justice choir, recorder choir, and writing her own music. She also found that her love of music was integrated into all her other studies.

“Learning about the world around me in classes that weren’t about music provided me with different ways to think about music, and often became an inspiration for my compositions and music-making. In addition to non-music classes, I was also able to participate musically in four different Nobel Conferences, and travel abroad to Sweden, Norway, Malaysia, and Singapore,” Johnson said. “Through these experiences and people I met in the liberal arts, I am continually inspired to make music more fervently, as well as to continue exploring the world and making connections.”

The highlight of Johnson’s time in the Gustavus music department took place last spring, when the seniors in the Gustavus Wind Orchestra were able to experience one last in-person concert after not being able to make music together for over a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It is tradition that after all of our concerts, we sing the Remember Song, and in non-COVID times hold hands in a circle. In the last concerts, the seniors always form a circle in the center, with the rest of the band surrounding them. We were all devastated that this may not be a possibility for our senior class. To our surprise, ALL of the seniors in GWO were fully vaccinated, and for the first time were all able to hold hands and sing the Remember Song in the center of the circle. I don’t think a single note came out of any of us as we were all sobbing and holding on to each other for dear life, but it was so powerful and moving to be able to hold hands and make music together after such a difficult time,” Johnson said.

Moving forward, Johnson will continue to take oboe lessons, as well as play in ensembles and serve as an assistant teacher for a reed-making class.

My musical journey thus far would not have been possible without the support of my family, friends, and professors. They constantly challenge me to be my best, and uplift me even when I feel I didn’t deserve to be uplifted. I am incredibly grateful for them, and for Gustavus for providing me with the resources to grow and make music,” Johnson said.


Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication Luc Hatlestad


Comments are closed.