Arts & Culture

Voice Major Scott Johnson: How one Furman Student Hopes to Impact Others Through Song

Scott Johnson is a voice major, and he is striving to use his talents to change the world.

Scott Johnson

Sophomore voice major Scott Johnson has a passion for singing. For him, performing is an opportunity to use his gifts to make the world a better place. Johnson explained that music touches the audience emotionally, allowing them to be healed, inspired, or changed in some way. In a world that can, at times, seem filled with darkness and hate, Johnson’s goal is to open people’s hearts through music. “If I can get good enough at singing that I change hearts and minds,” Johnson shared, “then I am changing the world.” He views singing as his contribution to creating a world in which individuals are respectful to one another and “see each other as human.” Most of Johnson’s repertoire consists of songs in foreign languages, but he does not feel that the language barrier diminishes the power of music. He says, “you don’t have to understand the lyrics to be overwhelmed by beauty.”

Johnson has always loved singing, and after performing in various musicals in high school, he knew that he wanted to continue performing in college and beyond. Johnson decided to major in voice as opposed to musical theater for a variety of reasons. One factor was simply the structural difference between the two majors. The caliber of a musical theater degree is determined by the rigor of a given program. Johnson explained, “it's about how good the instruction is, what faculty a program has and, more than anything, the name recognition.” A voice major, on the other hand, is more focused on an individual’s voice professor. Johnson values the close relationship he has formed with his professor, Dr. Grant Knox. In fact, when deciding on a university and going through the audition process, Johnson chose Furman in large part because of Dr. Knox, as well as the high standards for academics at Furman. 

Being a music major at Furman is hard work. Rather than taking a few four credit classes each semester, vocalists and instrumentalists take a variety of two credit courses in addition to normal GER classes. They also spend countless hours practicing and performing. Johnson compares the music major to a science major in that they both require lots of time outside of class, whether that be spent rehearsing and performing or working equations and attending labs. He says, “students who do research [in STEM] are essentially performing. They are fully contributing to the field that they are learning how to be a part of, which is what music majors are doing, too.” This interdisciplinary comparison highlights Johnson’s appreciation for supporting fellow Paladins in their endeavors, even when they are different than his own. He thinks it is important to attend sporting events, art exhibitions and performances that his classmates have worked hard on. 

Before COVID-19, weekly music recitals were a way for all students to appreciate the talent of music majors. Anyone could come enjoy the music and support their friends. While COVID-19 safety guidelines have temporarily prohibited Furman students from attending recitals, the music department is still hoping that Furman Singers, the men and women's choir of which Johnson is a member, will be able to perform this semester. There are also other opportunities around the corner. The Voice Department has invited all members of the Furman community to an opera scenes concert on Nov. 17 in the amphitheater. Furman vocal majors will each be performing an aria – the technical term for a piece from an opera. Because opera is commonly sung in different languages, each vocalist will be performing an english monologue of their song before singing. Johnson will be singing a love song titled “Elle ne croyait pas,” or “She did not believe,” from the opera Mignon. Because he is a young tenor, Johnson’s voice has a softer, sweeter quality rather than the weightiness needed for an adult “power tenor” role, and so it lends itself more to love songs. For this reason, much of what he is working on at Furman are songs for or about a love interest. However, when his voice fully matures – which for male opera singers does not occur until they reach their thirties– Johnson has countless characters he would love to play outside of the “Romeo” role. Among these are Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hide, Bill from Carousel, and the Phantom of the Opera. For now, however, Johnson’s main focus is becoming the best singer he can be, with hopes that one day he may use his talent to spread joy and better the world we live in.

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