Cory Johnson — Trumpeter
Cory Johnson is the 3rd great grandson of Maria Anna Nieland (Boes)
The Oklahoman, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, July 15, 2008
Musical talent sends student far from home
When he was 11, Cory Johnson was searching for his talent. What he found was so much more.
"I just hadn't found anything I was good at yet,” Johnson said. "So I decided, ‘Why not trumpet?'”
PHOTO: Johnson leans against a Cadillac once owned by legendary Canadian trumpet player Maynard Ferguson. By Sarah Phipps, THE OKLAHOMAN
Johnson said his stepmother, Julie [Stangl] Johnson, played when she was younger, and she encouraged him to give it a try. A few months after he began playing, he and his parents realized he could play at a higher skill level than most trumpet players his age.
"Cory has a dedication and commitment to playing at a high level,” said Michael Anderson, an associate professor of trumpet at Oklahoma City University. "He is very, very talented.”
What started as a hobby quickly flourished. Johnson started taking private lessons with Jim Klages, an instructor and the director of the trumpet choir at the University of Central Oklahoma. Klages said he knew from the beginning that Cory Johnson's talent was unique.
"He is a very quick study,” Klages said. "At the age of 16, he already plays at a collegiate level.”
Soon after Cory Johnson began lessons, he started competing. He has won regional, state and international competitions. In June, he won the International Trumpet Guild's Senior Youth Competition in Canada. He was the youngest performer and the only one to play his music from memory.
"It was the most incredible feeling,” he said. "I could have sworn I didn't win, and then I was very, very happy.”
He is also a member of the Oklahoma Youth Orchestra. In 2006, although he did not meet minimum age requirements, Johnson received a waiver that allowed him to audition for the Oklahoma All Star Centennial Band. He traveled with the band to perform in the 2007 Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, Calif., as well as the Oklahoma Centennial Spectacular in Oklahoma City and numerous other centennial events.
"Just getting to play is the best part,” he said. "I just have a real passion for it.”
His passion has allowed him to learn how to play six different types of trumpet. He said the skills to play are the same, but knowing the different sounds and pitches for each instrument is critical. In addition to his high school marching band and wind ensemble, he has played in the University of Central Oklahoma jazz band since he was 14. He also plays with the Bohemian Knights, a polka band that performs regularly at Czech Hall in Yukon.
"I enjoy playing all of the different types of trumpets,” Johnson said. "I'm really big into jazz, but I also enjoy all types of music because each one is important in its own way.”
Johnson's love for trumpets also carries into his personal life. When famous Canadian trumpet player and band leader Maynard Ferguson died, his Cadillac was put up for sale on eBay. Tony Johnson, Cory's dad, said he and his son knew Ferguson, whom Cory Johnson greatly admired.
"I got on there and bid on it,” Tony Johnson said. "And I was the only bidder, so we got it.”
For Cory Johnson, the car represents an important icon in the history of trumpet and jazz and a piece of the legacy Ferguson left behind.
"It's really cool that I get to own it,” he said. "That's pretty special.”
Cory Johnson, who will be a junior at Mustang High School in the fall, said he has much more planned for the next few years. He will attend a national trumpet competition in Virginia in May, and he is considering participating in the European Youth Festival in Austria the following month. Also, he is scheduled to participate with the UCO band at the International Trumpet Conference in Australia in 2010.
"He has the drive, determination and work ethic to go far,” OCU's Anderson said. "He certainly could play some day at the professional level.”
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