Research News

Carl Johnson has the Last Word

If you hear a booming voice singing Beethoven’s Ninth or Verdi’s Requiem in Wesley Place Garage one morning, it’s probably Carl Johnson practicing his repertoire for the Nashville Symphony Chorus.

After he takes his kids to school and before he heads off to MRB III to continue his research on biological clocks, Johnson, professor of biology, likes to get in a little extra practice.

Carl Johnson was photographed at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center, home of the Nashville Symphony Orchestra and Chorus. Hear Johnson and the rest of the chorus perform Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana at TPAC’s Jackson Hall April 29-May 1, accompanied by the orchestra and the Nashville Ballet. Photo by John Russell.

“I usually plink out the music for an upcoming performance on the piano and then make a tape to listen to in the car. My family doesn’t like to hear me practice because I have a big voice when I really let it loose,” he laughed.

Johnson’s lifelong passion for classical music was kindled in a music appreciation class his freshman year at the University of Texas. While his talents and interests led him to become a biologist instead of a musician, he has supplemented lab time with stints in various choruses. A few years ago, he decided to audition for the Nashville Symphony Chorus after voice lessons at Blair School of Music refreshed his skills and his confidence.

Now Johnson indulges both his passions: investigating circadian rhythms in cyanobacteria, plants and animals at his Vanderbilt lab and exploring the rhythms of Mozart, Beethoven, Borodin and the other classical composers he loves as a baritone with the chorus.

“Classical music, which is very orchestrated and harmonically complicated, really gets my heartstrings strumming,” he said. “I get chills up and down my back when the sound envelops me.”

Contact: Donna B. Smith