BRIAN JOHNSTON - VIOLINIST - Michigan Opera Theatre


While a student at the University of Michigan, Michigan Opera Theatre Violinist Bryan Johnston couldn’t decide if he wanted to study music or math. Now in his 18th season with MOT, his decision may be surprising: he chose math, a lot of math.

“I finished my doctorate in math in the spring of 2000, and I started playing with MOT in the fall of 2000,” he said.

While a devoted math student, Bryan practiced violin and performed throughout his college years, continuing to craft the talent he began at age five. Now he is a professional violinist – and a computer programmer.

“It means you're really busy, but you make it work,” he said. “There are other musicians in the pit who are in the same boat. I think for most of us opera comes first, and you make your day job fit around it.”

Bryan said he loves to play Puccini and Mozart operas, though one of his favorite experiences was performing in the MOT world premiere of Richard Danielpour’s Margaret Garner in 2005, featuring opera star Denyce Graves in the title role.

“It was unbelievable,” he said. “Being in the pit with a voice like that coming from the stage was wonderful.”

Outside of music, Bryan is a self-described nerd who enjoys sci-fi/fantasy TV shows and movies. He also loves running and heavy metal music and has been learning the guitar the past few years.

He is originally from Lansing and now lives with his wife, Nancy, in Royal Oak.

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