Robert William Johnson


Robert Johnson, a multi-talented musician and conductor, taught for ten years at Australasian Missionary College, now Avondale College, in Australia. During his decade of leadership at a difficult time for the college, he lifted the performance level of all of the ensembles, led the students to achieve at levels unmatched in prior times, and provided exceptional musical leadership.

Johnson was born in England, where he first worked as a coal miner. Although he was injured and the middle finger on one hand was damaged, he was able to overcome that handicap and became proficient on several instruments. In the late 1920s, he moved to Australia and began working in a music store in Brisbane. A recent convert to the Seventh-day Adventist church, he was hired in 1930 to teach music at AMC.

With his musical versatility and some earlier success as a conductor, Johnson was able to teach all of the lessons and direct the choir as well as the brass band and orchestra. He raised the performance level in all of the groups and expanded the curriculum to include conducting classes. He conducted the choir in presentations of major choral works such as the Messiah and Haydn's Creation and led the band, which had been known for its harsh sound and playing of questionable music, in more refined performances of carefully chosen music.

In every way, Johnson provided outstanding and loyal service. When his use of non-Adventist soloists in choral productions was questioned and then halted, he cooperated. He personally continued to study music and improve his credentials.

Tragically, Johnson was summarily released in 1939, when a fabricated love letter supposedly from him to his chorus pianist, which had been written and planted by two male students, was found. Years later, Milton Hook, author of the college's centennial history, wrote:

Arguably, Johnson was one of the best and most versatile music teachers the college ever employed. In retrospect it seems that there was a clear lack of justice in his case, he being discarded with such undue haste.



Source: This biography is based on information found in the Avondale College centennial history by Milton Hook, Avondale, Experiment on the Dora, Avondale Academic Press, 1998, 153, 154, 171, 172.