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Meet Jacob Johnson of Johnson Guitar Studio

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jacob Johnson.

Jacob, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
It all started when I was just 4 years old. My mother was a kindergarten teacher, so when parent/teacher conferences came up my father had to take me with him for his piano lesson. I was instructed to sit patiently and quietly while dad had his lesson, but when I heard the piano I was transfixed. I stood up and walked over to stand by the instrument, intently watching and listening. Dad decided that day to let me take over his lessons. Since then I’ve only become more and more deeply interested in music. At 8 years old I started studying the trumpet, and I stuck with that for a long time. I first picked up the guitar in middle school, but I still began my collegiate career as a trumpet performance major.

While I was studying at UNT, I heard a classical guitarist practicing one of the Bach “Lute Suites”. I was amazed to hear one guitar playing 3 and even 4 clearly perceptible independent melodies at the same time. I finished the semester half-heartedly as a trumpet major but then quit the trumpet department to start studying the guitar. I’ve been performing classical guitar music for private events of all kinds ever since. In my studies, I discovered I had a deep interest in the music of the Renaissance, and more especially the English composer John Dowland. At the time I didn’t have an interest in the lute itself, I just liked to play that music most of all.

But in 2014 I heard that one of the world’s greatest living lute players, Hopkinson Smith, would be visiting Dallas to give a concert and masterclass. I was invited to play in the masterclass, but I had just 6 weeks to prepare. I was expected to play the guitar, but since I’d been interested in the lute for so long, I decided that I should buy one and learn to play a piece on it for the lesson. Unfortunately, these aren’t things you can pick up at Guitar Center, so I found a cheap lute on eBay and played for the maestro. In doing so I quickly fell in love with the sound, feel, and look of the lute, and it became a regular part of my public performances.

In early 2016 I received my current instrument, which was built for me by Mel Wong in San Francisco. Since there are so few lute players these days, I’ve really enjoyed sharing that music with people. I give frequent public concerts, and I’ve been hired by several local colleges of music to perform for and teach their music majors. During the summer of 2017, I completed my first international solo concert tour.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
For the most part, the road has been smooth, though steep and narrow. The greatest difficulty I’ve faced has been budget. For centuries, patrons of the arts would simply cover an artist’s total travel and living expenses, and would even send for their personal tailor to completely outfit their artists with clothing. In return, the artists would create works of sculpture, paintings, or music for their patrons’ enjoyment. Without these great patrons, we wouldn’t have the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, but in the past, only the very wealthiest, such as the famous Medici family, could afford to be patrons of the arts.

Today we have Patreon, which completely removes the centuries-old economic and geographic barriers to becoming a patron of the arts. Today’s patrons can pledge as much or as little as they like on a recurring monthly basis or on a per-upload basis. My Patreon supporters have helped me to reach for greater heights and greater challenges earlier in my career that would have been possible alone.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Johnson Guitar Studio – what should we know?
Johnson Guitar Studio is a threefold project offering high-quality live music in concert and for private events, personalized music education, and video and audio recordings.

I specialize in Historically Informed Performance on the lute, performing music contemporary to William Shakespeare on a replica of instruments built in 1599. These days, there are very few performing lutenists anywhere in the world, so I’m proud to be the only one in Texas!

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
I’ve been very lucky to have had wonderful teachers throughout my life, who’ve really helped me reach this point in my career. Sabine Madriguera, my very first guitar teacher, once loaned me a 5-CD set of Paul O’Dette playing the solo lute works of John Dowland, thereby introducing me to the field of Historically Informed Performance and exceptional lute playing.

She also gave me a free ticket to see the great lutenist Hopkinson Smith perform. She was a phenomenal musician, and a great friend and mentor. Unfortunately, she passed away before I started studying the lute, so I never got to thank her for starting me down that path, but I am proud to own and perform on a guitar that she’d had built in 2007.

A huge thank you goes out to my patrons, both private and on Patreon, whose support encourages and enables me to continue working in the direction of my passions and to continue creating.

I also owe a debt of gratitude to the Lute Society of America (, the Utah Guitar Society (, the Sacramento Guitar Society (, and the Collegiate Peaks Guitar Retreat ( for helping me to organize and execute my first international concert tour during July and August of 2017.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Austin Wahl, Drew Timmons Photography

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