Aaron Johnson

aaron_johnsonAaron Johnson was born in Iowa City in 1979. His family moved to New York and settled on Long Island a year later.

At the age of 4, he started piano lessons, and then at the age of 7, enrolled at the Mannes College of Music’s preparatory program. At the age of 10, he picked up the trombone. After playing in school bands and orchestras, he met Chris Washburne, who would become his teacher up until and into college at the New School in Manhattan. There he also got to study with Chico Hamilton, Benny Powell, Herman Foster, and Arnie Lawrence.

After three semesters of college, Aaron decided to leave school and try to make a living off of his music. After touring with a few small bands and making his presence felt on the downtown music scene with people like Daniel Carter, Tom Abbs, and Butch Morris, he joined Antibalas in the summer of 2000. A year later he became conductor of the group, directing them at jazz festivals in Montreaux, Istanbul, Newport, and Montreal, and rock festivals like Bonaroo, Coachella, Roskilde, and Austin City Limits.

He played with Antibalas as well as countless other bands in New York until 2013 and for several years worked as musical director on the Tony Award-winning FELA!, the musical directed by Bill T. Jones, in addition to running the first Afrobeat Performance Ensemble at The New School.

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