Roland A. Johnson, age 91, passed away peacefully on Wednesday, May 30th, at Sebring.
He was born September 14, 1920, in Johnson City, TN, to Carl Albert and Anna (Dahl) Johnson.
Roland began playing the violin at age 10 and knew it was a great passion in life. He completed high school at age 15 and in 1938 went to Cincinnati on scholarship to study violin. He graduated in 1942 from the College of Music with a Bachelor’s of Music and from 1942-1946 was in the Navy as an instructor in the sonar school. Here he also found his love for conducting.
He returned to Cincinnati in 1946 as a graduate student and faculty conducting the College of Music Symphony, Chorus and Opera from 1947-1952. He studied in Europe for a year and returned in 1954 to complete his Master’s of Music.
In 1954, he took a teaching position at U of A Tuscaloosa and met his next great passion, his beloved wife, Arline (Hanke). They partnered on many choral and operatic performances and were married from 1956 until Arline’s death in 1988.
In 1961, Roland came to Madison and worked for 33 years as the Madison Area Technical College Chairman of Music and Conductor of the Madison Symphony and Chorus. Roland had a keen interest in choral masterpieces. He founded the Madison Opera with his wife, Arline, as well as with support of many community members. He conducted over 50 operas, starting and ending his Madison Opera career with “La Boheme.”
He commissioned over 20 premieres and is especially proud of work with Gunther Schuller and the 1993 opera premier of “Shining Brow.” During his tenure with the symphony and opera he brought both organizations to new heights of excellence.
Roland was granted a Doctorate in Music in the 80s from Milton College and in 1993 received the Cincinnati College of Music Distinguished Alumni award. He is a Life Director of the Madison Opera, was a founding member of the national Conductor’s Guild and received many arts awards.
After Roland’s retirement in 1993, he spent time with his grandchildren and was so very proud of them. He also continued work with the Madison Opera and got back to playing his violin.
Roland is survived by his son, Carl Johnson and daughter-in-law, Barbara Westfall; his daughter, Karen Johnson Kretschmann and son-in-law, David E. Kretschmann; his adored grandchildren, Sarah, Kyle and Calder; his loving sister, Carolyn and brother-in-law, Bob Sluder; as well as extended family members in Tennessee.
He was preceded in death by his beloved wife, Arline; sister, Violet Helen; and his parents; and many dear friends from Madison.
Roland was an exceptional person with a passion for living, music and his family. We are honored to have had him influence our lives.
We thank those from Meriter, Coventry, Sebring and Heartland Hospice for the love, service and guidance you provided our family.
Funeral services will be held on Saturday, June 9, 2012, at 11 a.m. at Midvale Community Lutheran Church, 4329 Tokay Boulevard, Madison.
Visitation will start at 10 a.m. and a reception will follow.
Memorials may be made to Madison Opera, Madison Symphony Orchestra or Midvale Community Lutheran Church.
Cress Funeral and Cremation Service, 3610 Speedway Road, Madison; 608-238-3434
Please share your memories at www.CressFuneralService.com.