Craig Johnson - CANBERRA CITY BAND MD
Craig Johnson, born and raised in Sydney, NSW, joined the Australian Regular Army as a musician in 1977. He subsequently served in Army bands in Sydney, Perth and Canberra before being selected to attend Army Band Officer training at the Defence Force School of Music in Melbourne. Upon graduation he was awarded the Commanding Officer’s Prize for the Best Conductor of the Course. Since then, has served as Music Director of Army Bands Wagga, and Perth, and of the Royal Military College Band in Canberra. His final two appointments before retiring from the Army were as the Commanding Officer/Chief Instructor of the Defence Force School of Music, followed by Commanding Officer of the Australian Army Band.
During his Army service, Craig has taken bands to Bougainville, East Timor, the Solomon Islands, Gallipoli, the UK, Switzerland and France. His deployment to East Timor in 1999 was a highlight, and included assisting in the arrangements for the “Tour of Duty” Concert in Dili - featuring John Farnham, Kylie Minogue, Doc Nieson and James Blundell - coordinating the Royal Military College Band tour, and forming and recording a 100 voice multi-national INTERFET choir from soldiers of the participating nations to accompany Jon Stevens at the 1999 Myer Music Bowl “Carols by Candlelight.”
In addition to his extensive service in the Army band branch, Craig has been very successful as a conductor and musical director of musical theatre. He has conducted many successful musical theatre productions including “Westside Story,” “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” “Grease,” and “Hello, Dolly!” amongst many other shows. Craig has undertaken advanced orchestral conducting studies in Venice, Italy, and Varna, Bulgaria – where he conducted a public performance of Brahms’ “Ein Deutsches Requiem.”
Craig continues to be active as a conductor of bands and orchestras, and as a music director, principally with Canberra City Band.
Sarah Nielsen - JOHN AGNEW BAND MD
Sarah Nielsen is the co-founder and Concertmaster of the Canberra Wind Symphony and the Music Director of the John Agnew Band.
Sarah Nielsen hails from the musically rich Northern Territory where she spent her formative years playing flute in youth orchestras, symphony orchestras and concert bands. A highlight during this period was performing with classical guitar luminary John Williams. In 1998 she won a Rotary scholarship to attend the Pan-Pacific Music Camp in Sydney, and in 2000 Sarah chose to attend the Canberra School of Music ahead of competing universities. Whilst at the School, Sarah completed four years of studies with Virginia Taylor (ACO, CSO) and Vernon Hill (LSO, MSO, CSO).
In furthering her performance influences Sarah has undertaken classes with many of the world’s leading flute practitioners, including Peter Lloyd (LSO), Felix Renggli (Music Academy of Basel), Paul Edmund-Davies (LSO, Principal Flute of English National Opera), and Michael Cox (BBC SO, London Sinfonia, LSO, Academy of St Martin in the Fields).
During her time at the Canberra School of Music (later becoming part of the Australian National University), Sarah performed with the School of Music Symphony Orchestra, Canberra Youth Orchestra and Canberra Symphony Orchestra. She also studied various electives, most notably Conducting with Max McBride (SSO, ACO) and Music Arranging with Ruth Lee-Martin.
In 2002 Sarah was the winner of the Nigel & Ann Flowers Scholarship for Flute at the ANU. Graduating in the subject of flute performance in 2003, her honours subject was the The Trend Towards Impressionism in Australian Flute Music, for which she received first class honours.
Sarah’s subsequent performance career has seen her embark on an eclectic and exciting mix of performance broadening musical experiences. This has included winning a permanent casual position with the Canberra Symphony Orchestra, performing with the renowned Band of the Royal Military College, showcasing the beauty of low flutes in the Supernova Bossa Nova trio, and in 2015, founding the Canberra Wind Symphony with husband Geoff Grey.
In 2018 Sarah was accepted into an international summer school and traveled to Canada to study with tutors from the Royal Academy, William Bennett and Lorna McGhee.
In 2019 Sarah commenced teaching at the ANU School of Music, tutoring chamber music groups.
Leisa Keen - SPECTRUM BIG BAND MD
Leisa has been working in the Australian music industry for over 25 years, in both jazz and musical theatre/cabaret.
Since 1990, Leisa has musically directed and performed in over 150 shows, including "Beauty and the Beast", "Chess", "A Chorus Line", "Little Shop of Horrors", "West Side Story", "Jesus Christ Superstar", “Phantom Of The Opera”, “Cats” and many others.
After training in classical piano for 12 years, Leisa then went on to study jazz vocals at the Canberra School of Music, under the direction of Gery Scott, for 6 years. It was here that she also gained the valuable writing and arranging skills that have assisted in her musical direction and performance, making her one of Canberra's, Sydney’s and the Gold Coast's most sought-after accompanists and musical directors.
Leisa performed the role of "Lucy Harris" in the Australian premiere production of "Jekyll & Hyde", playing opposite Donald Cant as Jekyll/Hyde. This performance lead to her winning a CAT award for Best Actress in a Musical.
Other onstage credits include playing Mrs Potts in "Beauty and the Beast", The Plant in "Little Shop of Horrors", the Fairy Godmother in "Cinderella", the Dolly Parton Pig in "The 3 Little Pigs", and Wishy Washy and the Genie in "Aladdin". She has also made several appearances with the Royal Military College Duntroon Band, as a soloist at the popular Music at Midday concert series, as well as the Chief Minister's Senior's Week concerts.
Leisa has shared the stage with artists such as internationally acclaimed jazz vocal group The Manhattan Transfer, Jon English, Simon Gallaher, Todd McKenney, Toni Lamond, Noni Hazelhurst, Amanda Muggleton, John Foreman, and many other talented entertainers.
In 2013, Leisa was awarded a Canberra Critics Circle Award for her services to music in Canberra, as well as a CAT Award as “Best Musical Director” for Freerain Theatre Company’s production of “Cats”.
In her spare time, Leisa performs around Canberra, Sydney and the Gold Coast as a piano vocalist in various venues, and with several of her jazz combos, including “The Leisa Keen Trio” “John Mackey and Leisa Keen Jazz Duo”, “The Blamey Street Big Band” and “O Christmas Trio”. She also frequently accompanies other artists in Canberra, Sydney and the Gold Coast, as well as taking her various bands to jazz festivals all over Australia. Leisa also teaches singing and piano.