Winner of the Jan Royce Foundation Prize for Best Symphonic Composition, Johannes Visser received his Bachelor of Music degree in Composition and Piano Summa Cum Laude, with subject distinctions in Composition, Piano, Accompanying, Music Theory & Analysis, and Music History. He has recently completed his Master of Music Composition degree on the highly prestigious Bomhard Fellowship and has also obtained an intensive Master of Music degree in Orchestral Conducting, graduating Summa Cum Laude from both graduate degrees. Johannes also competed in the Cone of Composition Competition for Chamber works of unique orchestration for two years and received bronze medals both times.
Recently Johannes had a variety of notable composition premieres including three performances of “bo-kaap”, a large-scale work for chamber orchestra, as well as “klankstruktuur no.2”, an experimental work for large orchestra that includes body percussion and a plethora of extended techniques. Johannes also received the premiere of his “fantasie vir harp”, a harp fantasy performed by the world-renowned harpist, Parker Ramsay. Other notable premieres include the performance of “vryheid”, a piece for fixed electronics at the Speed Art Museum, and the exhibition of a collaborative sound art installation called “sound portraits”, displayed at the University of Louisville School of Music.
Along with his composition awards, Johannes has also competed in numerous instrumental competitions. He received silver and bronze medals in the Robert Andrews Piano Competition as well as the Lionel Bowman Beethoven Competition. Johannes also regularly performs as a piano soloist and has recently been appointed as an accompanist at the University of Louisville. Johannes is also in high demand as an orchestral double bass player. He performed as the soloist in D. Dragonetti’s Andante and Rondo for solo double bass and orchestra with the Camerata Tinta Barocca Orchestra and has been a seasonal member of the internationally acclaimed Cape Philharmonic Orchestra for the past four years. Johannes has also been contracted on special request by the Stellenbosch Camerata orchestra as well as the Stellenbosch International Chamber Music Festival Orchestra for six consecutive years.
Born in Cape Town, South Africa in 1994, Johannes has been stimulated through music appreciation classes since the age of 3. Subsequently, he began studying violin, piano, music theory and double bass. Johannes studied choral literature at the Internationally acclaimed Drakensberg Boys’ Choir from 2006 – 2009 which presented him the opportunity to discover the musical cultures of the United States, the Netherlands, Austria, Norway, Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Swaziland.
Since enrolling for a Bachelor of Music degree at the University of Cape Town, Johannes developed an interest in composition. Consequently, he studied with award-winning composers Hendrik Hofmeyr and Martin Watt. Johannes studied piano performance with Albie van Schalkwyk and double bass with Henrike Kovats. As a result of Johannes’ dedication to composition, he was accepted into a semester abroad programme at the University of California in Los Angeles where he studied composition and counterpoint with David Lefkowitz and Ian Krouse, conducting under Travis Cross, and Songwriting under Alan Elliott.
Johannes completed two Master of Music degrees in Contemporary Art Music Composition and Orchestral Conducting at the University of Louisville as a graduate fellow and teaching assistant. He studied composition with Steve Rouse, electronic and experimental music with Krzystof Wolek, orchestral conducting with Kimcherie Lloyd and choral conducting with Kent Hatteberg. Currently, Johannes is pursuing a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Contemporary Art Music Composition at the University of Maryland on their revered Flagship Fellowship.
In his acoustic compositions, Johannes is focusing on vocal and orchestral writing. He is currently completing a symphonic song cycle based on three South African poems on local culture. Johannes’ South African, and specifically Afrikaans heritage plays a significant role in his compositions as it is important for him to express his cultural identity through music. In works like bo-kaap and madiba se sprokie, Johannes incorporates South African musical characteristics such as distinctive rhythmic complexity, parallelism, chorale textures, simple harmony, multi-layered polyphony, and counterpoint. The incorporation of these cultural musical elements lends a distinctive and unique voice to his music. Johannes has also been passionate about incorporating themes of social injustice and humanitarian issues into his music. These include racial, gender, and socio-economic inequalities. His composition thesis, mabalêl, showcases themes of socio-economic injustices faced by communities in rural South Africa.
Johannes’ investigations into electronic and experimental music delve into the world of computer-assisted sound generation and processing as well as noise based, improvisatory, and conceptual sound art creation. Fundamentally, these studies are centred around the use of the Max/MSP sound programming software with secondary explorations into other sound processing programs such as Pro-Tools, Open Music, Audiosculpt, Spear, and Lemur.
In his orchestral conducting, Johannes strives for a well-rounded education with a careful balance between exposure to standard repertoire and techniques for contemporary music direction. Furthermore, Johannes’ undiluted energy and expressive conducting language offer a unique and refreshing take on modern conducting.
Johannes has also been training young composers since September of 2018 through a composition course at the well-regarded Youth Performing Arts School in Louisville, Kentucky. During this course, he assumes the position of lecturer, leader, role model, and mentor. Johannes also devises individualized lesson plans for teaching students the fundamentals of composition while exposing them to enriching works that will broaden their musical insight and further their appreciation for contemporary music.