Herbert Johnson

Name: Herbert Johnson, '01, '13

Residence: Sumter, South Carolina

Degree: Bachelor's and master's of music degrees, Winthrop; and is seeking his doctorate of music education degree, Liberty University

Occupation: Assistant Professor of Music, Morris College

Music is Herbert Johnson's life, as he seeks to bring joy to others.

An accomplished educator, he is also a conductor, clinician, producer, singer, published songwriter and composer. At the young age of 40, he was declared a “Musical Legend” in 2019 by the South Carolina Baptist Association.

Johnson started singing in choirs at the age of 5, first with his church choir and later in choirs throughout his elementary, middle, high school and college years.

“My greatest influence in choral music was my high school director, Dr. Sonja Sepulveda, who is also a Winthrop graduate, and she continues to be one of my greatest influences as we still work together professionally today performing together nationally and internationally,” Johnson said.

Now a director of choirs, Johnson is an assistant professor for Morris College in Sumter, South Carolina, teaching music theory, sacred music and music appreciation. During his first year teaching there, he was presented the Presidential Staff award, which is the highest award presented to a faculty/staff member. 

Before he entered higher education, Johnson made his name working with choral groups in high schools in the Carolinas. He was Bessemer City High School's Star Teacher of the Year in 2011, where he secured a National Grammy music education award for the North Carolina school to purchase music equipment. Watch a video of his work here

He returned home to teach at Lakewood High in South Carolina where he earned a second Grammy music education award in 2015 which aided in the development of the program overall. The school named him its high school teacher of the year in 2017.

Johnson received his bachelor's and master's of music degrees from Winthrop and is currently working on the doctorate of music education degree at Liberty University. Winthrop's Alumni Association named him its Professional Alumni of the Year in 2015 because of his achievements in the field of music. 

As a result of his curricular and extra-curricular experiences and training at Winthrop, Johnson said he was able to gain skills and knowledge from one of the top regional institutions for teachers. He said it helped him become a strong leader in the classroom and in his community. 

He also benefited from his graduate assistantship as student coordinator for campus programs with the award-winning Dinkins Student Union (DSU) and with one of the top activities director in the entire country, the legendary Boyd Jones. “I now put these valuable experiences to use as a Sumter County Arts Commissioner,” he said. 

His latest honor is receiving the S.C. Independent Colleges and Universities Excellence in Teaching Award in spring 2021. It is presented annually by SCICU to a professor from each one of the 20-member institutions who has excelled in teaching, research and service to the college and the community.

Johnson also has served as a S.C. Middle School Music Performance Assessment Adjudicator, a S.C. High School Music Performance Assessment Site Coordinator, as well as an Adjudicator for the S.C. Association of Independent Schools' Solo and Ensemble Music Festival (2020).

In addition to donating his time and talents to music education, Johnson is minister of worship and arts for Grant Hill Missionary Baptist Church. He is the artistic director for the Sumter Civic Chorale, the president of the Palmetto Voices Spiritual Ensemble of South Carolina and is a member of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia Fraternity.

Johnson believes that it is vital for those who benefit from or receive help from others to repeat the pattern. “Someone invested in me and sewed a seed into my own development and so I absolutely must do the same,” Johnson said. “It is up to each generation to carve out a path for the next generation to continue the cycle or ‘circle of life.'”