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Honors for WXXI Classical Midday host Steve Johnson

Congratulations to WXXI Classical Midday host Steve Johnson on recently being honored with the Alfred Mann Dissertation Award for 2024.

Head shot of a man with brown curly hair wearing a Hawaiian shirt with blue and red stripes
John Schlia Photography

The Alfred Mann dissertation Award, established in honor of the distinguished musicologist and professor emeritus Alfred Mann (1917-2006) at the Eastman School of Music, recognizes a student in the department of musicology or theory for a dissertation of unusual distinction. Steve was up against his colleagues who finished in both the '22-'23 and '23-'24 academic years.

Steve first came to Rochester as a student at the Eastman School of Music. He has loved classical music and public media since his youth. He pursued this love through college, having earned his Bachelor's in Music Education and Master's in Musicology at Indiana University and, most recently, his Ph.D. in Musicology at Eastman. His Alfred Mann Award-winning dissertation (“Kim Jong Il Presents Juche, the Opera: North Korean Revolutionary Opera as Assemblage”) discussed the relationship between nationalist politics and opera in North Korea.

Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester

This year’s selection committee (Professors Lisa Jakelski and Holly Watkins) wrote:

We were impressed by the originality of this topic, the daring it took to write about North Korea, and the breadth of learning, both in terms of the Korean language as well as North Korean culture. Stephen has a sure grasp of relevant theory, and thanks to his probing insights we were able to hear and understand this repertoire in new and compelling ways. So much of the literature on music and socialism is dominated by the Soviet example; Stephen is aware of those conversations but also contextualizes them in novel and compelling ways. In short, this was a well-researched and well-argued dissertation that makes a worthy contribution to global music history.