M. Zachary Johnson’s music has been described as “the first serious Romantic music to be produced by a composer who is part, not of the 19th-century past, but of the 21st-century future.” According to About.com classical guide Aaron Green, “If this is the direction classical music is heading, well, I’d say the future will be full of wonderful music.”
He is the founder and director of the MZJ Ensemble, a hybrid wind ensemble/chamber orchestra which presents his music in lecture-performances and in video and audio recordings. The Ensemble is funded by its listeners through the New York Foundation for the Arts.
Johnson has taught music theory and ear training in the Preparatory Division of Mannes College the New School for Music in New York City for many years, and "Dancing with the Muses" grows out of teaching materials he created for students.
Johnson has enjoyed a longstanding collaboration with saxophonist Brian Horner that has resulted in the premieres of more than ten new works for saxophone. Their concerts have been presented at such venues as Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall, Steinway Hall, and New York City’s Mannes College of Music, as well as at the Glimmerglass Opera’s Young Artist recital series.
Joined by pianist Elizabeth Avery, they released Saxophone Music of M. Zachary Johnson—Live at Steinway Hall in August 2006. Anna Franco wrote in Music and Vision Daily that “the instruments take on an especially lyrical, singing quality, igniting the rarely-tapped Romantic potential of the saxophone-piano combination which Johnson has mastered.” The Saxophone Journal hailed the music as “a very valuable addition to the saxophone’s repertoire.”
Johnson has written extensively for both small and large ensembles. He served as Composer in Residence of the 2007 Austin Peay State University Governor’s Honor Band Festival, which included the world premieres of his Scherzo-Concerto for Alto Saxophone & Wind Ensemble, and his Two Military Pieces for Symphonic Band.
Johnson earned undergraduate degrees in music from the University of Michigan and a Masters degree from the Mannes College of Music in New York, where he was awarded the Felix Salzer Prize for Excellence in Music Theory. He received additional training at the University of Salzburg in Austria and at the Schola Cantorum in Paris.