Why we are sharing this site with you

Dear friends and family,

We are writing today with sad news.  Our father passed away unexpectedly from a heart attack on Tuesday at his home in Maine.

We are not planning a funeral, but there will be a memorial service.  We will be posting information on this website.

No flowers, please, but consider contributing to the scholarship we will be establishing in Marc’s memory at Boston University.  More information about how to do that will be posted on this website.

Kirsten and Nicole Johnson


12 thoughts on “Why we are sharing this site with you

  1. Brett Noser

    My name is Brett Noser and I am the orchestra director at Lincoln High School in Lincoln Nebraska. I would first like to say I am very sorry for your loss, from the sounds of it Marc was an amazing human being and I feel that I have missed out on meeting someone so great! I was wondering if there is anyone I can talk to to get information about Mr. Marc Johnson’s life. After doing some digging in our music library some students and teachers started archiving information about Lincoln High School Alumni and we found a newspaper article about Marc. If I could get in to contact with someone it would be greatly appreciated.
    Thank you very much for your time!
    Brett Noser

  2. Amy Barston

    As a little kid, I really had no idea what an incredible cellist Marc was. I was his daughters’ friend, oblivious to anyone’s musical stature, and I just knew him as a warm, open-hearted man who I really liked being around. Unlike most of the adults I knew, he and Kathy actively engaged us in conversation, sincerely wanting to hear our thoughts (shocking!) – those intelligent big eyes patiently encouraging expression. His infectious warmth often caught me off-guard, and I always felt safe and welcomed around him. Their house in Wilmette was a wonderful place to be, full of laughter, especially with Alfie the Parrot around. When I was an early teenager, Kirsten brought me to Depaul University to hear the Vermeer play. (Dvorak Piano Quintet with Pressler, I think?) And, while I had been exposed to lots of great music, I think it was at this concert that I musically woke up – and actively listened – for the first time. Perhaps after that, friendly conversations with Marc took on a more serious (and intimidated) tone for me, but Marc had exactly the same warmth, sincerity, care, and patience – it must have been who he was in every facet of his life.

    Nicole and Kirsten, I wish I could be there for the memorial – but with the two little ones, I’m afraid I can’t make it work. Please know that I will be thinking of the wonderful Johnson clan and all the loving memories, and sending big hugs. And, I know Grandpa would be so proud of the third cello generation!

  3. Michael Pecherek

    I first met Marc on Mother’s Day 1985 at a concert in which he performed the Haydn D Major Concerto with the Illinois Chamber Symphony. I had never heard such beautiful playing in my life. I was a senior in high school at the time and I was trying to decide whether to pursue a career in the military or consider the more hazardous profession of Classical music. So I introduced myself to Marc back stage, and for the first of countless times, he changed my life for the better. This particular time, he simply asked me to play for him. I learned more in that first lesson than I had in the last two years of high school. And, when I finally earned a spot in his studio, it was literally the happiest day of my life. Over the next several years, somehow through incredible patience and perseverance, Marc managed to transform my crude ability into something resembling talent on the cello. As others have said, as a student I also had difficulty calling him Marc at first, but I respected him so much that I made sure I wore a tie to all of my lessons. I literally think about him every time that I practice because I have a picture of the two of us hanging up in my office. Of the hundreds of important things that Marc taught me as a cellist, the things that I am the most grateful for are learning how to shift, learning how to relax physically, learning how to make intelligent decisions about the music that I play, and learning how to talk to my students in careful measured tones. The morning that I heard the news of Marc’s passing, I looked around my office at school, and I thought, “I would never be here if it wasn’t for Marc.” And that’s the truth.

    I studied with Marc for 6 years, so I was fortunate to have spent a lot of time with him. While I was his teaching assistant, I lived in his office at NIU, and the only job that I had was to make up his weekly teaching schedule. I always scheduled myself before his lunch break so that we could eat together. I can honestly say that I rarely paid for my own lunch at the Junction; a trait that I have tried to pass along to my starving college students. Marc would often come to the string parties that I would throw, and he would drink a beer or two, and he would laugh his infectious laugh that had a sort of hissing sound in it, and despite his stature, he would always act like he was just one of the boys. When he would demonstrate some technique or passage in my lessons, he would always do it in a casual sort of way, and it would make me think; “Wow, that’s easy. I can do that.” Often times, just seeing him play some impossible thing with ease and grace did make it easier for me to play it. One time however, when my student quartet was rehearsing the Brahms Piano Quintet, and our second violinist didn’t show up for the coaching, Marc pulled out his cello and stunningly played the second violin part with us, and I remember thinking; “Holy wow, I definitely couldn’t do that.” We all try to develop a “sound” in our playing that is unique to us, but the reality is that most of us just sound like everyone else. Marc truly had a unique sound in his playing that was both beautiful and dynamic, but it came from inside of him. I know that I will never hear him play again, but that’s OK, because his sound is indelibly etched in my soul.

    To Nicole and Kirsten: I can’t tell you how sorry I am that you lost both Kathie and Marc in such a short period of time, but they both truly do live on in you and Sebastian. And in a small part, they both live on in every one of us who has ever had the privilege of knowing them. Of course Marc taught me how to be a better cellist, but more importantly he taught me how to be a better man. Whether in my teaching or in my life, many of the things that I do and many of the decisions that I make, I consciously link back to something that I gleaned from Marc’s incredible kindness and wisdom.

    Mike Pecherek

  4. Catherine Lehr Ramos

    When our daughter Mary Ann was in high school, she announced that she wanted to be a cellist. My husband and I had always included music lessons in our children’s education, but somehow we hadn’t considered the possibility that they might want to be musicians for a living. Knowing that Marc had two daughters a little older than ours who were pursuing careers in music, I called him up and asked, “How could you let your girls go into music?” Marc told me that he and Kathie had also provided music lessons for their girls, but that the girls themselves were the ones who decided “they can’t live without it.” (Marc’s words) Marc posed the question of what job is absolutely secure and will have available work in 20 years. At that time McDonnell-Douglas in St. Louis had just laid off many engineers, and I realized he had a point. Marc told me, “Let them follow their heart, and if it doesn’t work out, they’ll be able to figure it out.” That has turned out to be wise advice, not only for our own family but for many others. I am blessed to have known Marc, to have heard him play and teach, and to have benefitted from his wisdom and experience.

  5. Tanya Carey

    When I think of Marc and Kathy, I think of warmth, friendship, caring, laughter, intellectual curiosity, honesty and perception about life and living, and deep insights into the music and the performing process.Two performances of the many of Marc’s that stand out is the recital he gave for the Chicago Cello Society which opened with the Haydn Divertimento–charming, beautiful, rich tone, equisite shaping, flawless intonation–definiately breathtaking. The other performance was the Sarabande to the Third Suite at Art Montzka’s memorial service–so heartfelt, so beautiful. Kristen and Nicole, my heart goes out to you. Marc touched many lives and his legacy will live with us. Tanya Carey

  6. Ron Hurwitz

    My heartfelt condolences to all of Marc’s family. I was shocked to hear from Glenn Garlick that Marc had passed away last week. I first met Marc almost 45 years ago when we were in the Marine Band in Washington. He immediately impressed me as a wonderful musician and a fine person with a great sense of humor. I had the pleasure of reading chamber music with him, and in September of 1970 I was part of a Marine Band quartet with Marc that played for Tito at a dinner in Belgrade. We spent several free days seeing the sights of the city together, visiting a late-night club where a gypsy violinist entertained, and had some wonderful meals together.

    On several occasions more recently, when the Vermeer Quartet played in Toronto, he and I managed to get together for a drink or dinner, and relive our early memories. I also had an opportunity to visit Marc and Kathie at their beautiful home in Maine, and relax with them in their lovely garden by the water. Their friendship was very important to me and this is a great loss for everyone whose lives they touched.

  7. Andrei Pricope

    Marc taught me 1994-1997, but his lessons and his generous, kind, supporting approach are with me every day. Very often I asked myself “how would Marc play this? how would he ask me to approach it?”

    I loved his smile, I cherished his sound, I tried to steal his phrasing… Marc taught me how to shift over one octave on one string, confidently and musically. In doing so, I learned to reach, to trust, to let go, and to share the phrase with purpose.

    Despite being his teaching assistant of three years, I always struggled calling him by his first name – I had too much respect for the wonderful man and the consummate musician he was. But calling him “Mr. Johnson” seemed to ignore, negate and even insult the warmth he surrounded everyone around him with…

    He offered me the teaching assistantship by personally calling me in my dorms at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester where I was still a student, at an ungodly hour. I was surprised, shocked and immensely grateful – I had only played for him in a couple of masterclasses which I enjoyed tremendously, and I followed that call with just my cello and a suitcase, never regretting it – it was clearly meant to be the right thing for me. And what a privilege it was! Now, years later, I wish I had been a better student for him…
    I ended up cherishing my time with him, in lessons, and equally at a greasy DeKalb diner for “debriefing” after a Vermeer concert or a full day of teaching.

    Marc IS and always be my wise mentor, my gentle master, my role model…

    So sad you have left us so early, so grateful to have known you. I miss you…
    Rest well, Mr. Johnson

    1. Leslie Kouzes-Hamric

      I studied with Marc from 1994 to 1999 and those years were amazing! His positive outlook on life and willingness to take on new challenges were definitely an inspiration.

  8. Ronald Leonard

    When I was a fairly young man I was fortunate to be teaching cello at the Eastman School and was blessed to have Marc Johnson as one of my students. I remember his beautiful sound ( I think he was born with that beautiful sound) and his intelligent approach to playing the cello and I knew he was going to have a wonderful career as a cellist. Not so many years later, he replaced me in the Vermeer Quartet and I was certain that he was perfect for the group. (he must not have told Schmuel that he had studied with me). We did not have a lot of contact over the years but I followed his career and I know how proud he was of his beautiful family. I must say it is hard to get my head around the idea that he is gone and I send my heartfelt sympathy to the family. He was a beautiful cellist, a wonderful family man and I know he will be missed by all of us who were fortunate to have known him.

    Ronald Leonard

  9. Baker Peeples

    “You know, Baker, the cello got so much easier to play once I could rest the back of the instrument on my belly.”

    —Baker Peeples, M.M. Northern Illinois University, 2007

  10. Kirby

    I am so saddened by this news, Mr. Johnson was such a wonderful man. His kindness has stuck with me over the years, and I will always be touched by my time with him.

    A few of my favorite memories would be at his house in Maine – him teaching me to nail a few shingles into his house, start a huge bonfire and what a tide is! He had a great sense of humor (even if at the time I didn’t understand his adult themed jokes :). I will never read the word Adagio in music again without picturing him teaching my chamber group that it should feel like an old man walking. I remember the way he comforted me when his big dogs “played” – my memories tell me he was very attentive and patient.

    More than these specific events, I will always remember Mr. Johnson as a warm-hearted delightful man who touched me greatly as a child. Please know my thoughts and prayers are with his family at this time.

  11. Meixu Lu

    I will never see you coming out from this door, standing in the lobby, waving your hand and saying “hello” to me with the lovely accent… You will never teach me how to swing your door when I want to lock it… I will never play the last movement of Brahms e-minor sonata to you… But, I believe you will be with me every time when I play cello… I will leave a seat blank for you on April 28th at Concert Hall, because I know you will be there and put your hands on my shoulder to encourage me like always “You are fine, don’t be nervous. You are in the good shape, play well~~”… I don’t want to play cello anymore last night. But today I think I will play even harder than before! Because that’s the best way to remember you and your soul for me! Love and miss you forever, my dear teacher – Marc Johnson.


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