Music Lessons! Do you need a violin or piano teacher?

Music Lessons! Do you need a violin or piano teacher?

School is starting up again for the year and that means Karen and Abigail are signing up more violin and piano students! They teach everyone from wonderful retired adults who are seeking to learn a new skill or fulfill a dream, to little kids that are fascinated by music and enjoy teachers who make learning interesting and fun for them.

We're In! We're Excited!

Our Johnson Strings music video, Hallelujah Chorus at the Bettendorf Castle, has been selected to be shown at the Christian Worldview Film Festival March 10-14, 2015 in San Antonio, Texas!

Check it out! 

We will also be at the festival and will perform the opening concert on Thursday, March 12, 2015!

Now that we are back from our winter break, stay tuned for fun stories about what we've been up to in these last weeks and check Facebook for our latest updates!

Czardas - a sneak peak behind the scenes of our latest music video!

Shooting video in the rain.....or at least shooting between downpours! What fun. NOT! It was discouraging to get all the paperwork done, logistics worked out, and time spent to drive all the way to MO, only to be met with BAD weather! But, God worked out everything for the best and we came away with a video that has more weather features than we had originally planned on! His ways are always best, even though while you’re going through them, it can be easy to wonder. 

As you can see above, we did all sorts of things to keep the rain off the instruments as much as possible!

Umbrellas were our best friends.

The details: We arrived at the location only to have the skies pour and drizzle. Even though the rain lasted all day, we were able to shoot video now and then when the skies let up. The canopy we brought along at the  last minute was invaluable - we were able run under it when it poured and also do some closeups under it during the rain. I would be almost out from under the canopy on one side while the soloist would be as far away from me as possible while still remaining under the canopy. Crowded! Have you ever tried to get 8 people, 8 instruments (including a piano), a generator, umbrellas, and camera equipment all under 1 ten by ten foot canopy? It was tough to keep stuff dry! Beth (a very nice runner) brought us towels to use in drying off our instruments and even opened up her home in case we needed a place to warm up/dry off - thanks Beth!

Here, you can see the canopy when it was only filled with 4 people and part of the equipment - we weren't even shooting footage under it!

Because of all the rain, we weren't able to capture all the footage we were hoping for, so we were able to schedule a return to the park (on our way home from Texas) to finish the video. The only problem was it poured Monday morning when we were again scheduled to shoot video - thankfully, the rain dried up mid-morning, and were were able to grab a few shots before heading home!

I forgot to mention: the hill here was treacherous for filmmakers trying to get a smooth shot without stepping in holes and slipping a bit on rocks!

Take a listen here and see what you think! 

In case you’re interested, here’s the backstory behind this unique burned out castle:
According to local folklore, Ha Ha Tonka is an Osage Indian word for laughing waters, alluding to the springs in the gorge far below the castle. This American mansion was built by Robert M. Snyder, a wealthy Kansas City businessman, on more than 5,000 acres. Construction began in 1905 only to be halted a year later with the untimely death of Snyder in one of the state's first automobile accidents. Snyder's sons finished building their father's dream, eventually leasing the property out for use as a hotel, until tragedy struck in 1942. The entire interior was consumed by fire when sparks from a chimney ignited the roof. Today only ruins remain of one man’s dream.

It must have been gorgeous before, but I love the feel it has now!

Check it out on YouTube! 

Behind the Scenes of Our Latest Music Video

It's not out yet... But, here are some pictures for you to enjoy!

We are SUPER excited about the videos we've been working on this month! I can hardly believe we'll be shooting our 6th Johnson Strings movie in just a few days! It'll be our third movie to film this month! (Videos #4 and #5 are shot, sorted, and ready to send to my video editor, so stay tuned to see those in the upcoming weeks!)

Here's a little look behind the scenes of the last video we filmed.

During the time this scene was filmed, I was frozen! It was 33 degrees outside. Brrrrr.

Reflectors are VERY useful tools. Here, I was able to get the perfect lighting on Silas' face for his solo.

We had our fair share of clowning around. Laughter makes everything more fun!

Hats add so much character! Figuring out the clothing for each video is a good challenge - coordinating colors that go with our chosen theme and making sure they fit well with each individual's personality.

Ahhh... Here's our good 'ol English gent.

Did I forget to mention all our uninvited company? Picture this: thousands of no-see-ums and swarms of tiny white moths... Days later, my arms are STILL covered in itchy bug bites!!!

Below, we're celebrating the end of a day's hard work - getting up at 4:15 am makes for a long day!

What's YOUR vote? Who's jump picture do you like best?

Who'd you rather be?!!

Who'd you rather be?!!

How'd ya like that expression?

How'd ya like that expression?

That's all for now! Stay tuned for more juicy details!

"I Will Sing" Music Video - Behind the Scenes

Although it doesn't show in the video, we were battling soggy ground, mud, and later lots of rain on the way home! This made walking somewhat treacherous for the girls, who were in heels....we had many clean up sessions in-between takes! 

Making music videos is an adventure. This one was no different! With hours of travel time and many hours of filming, we had one long 16 hour work day!

Karen wasn't quite tall enough to get the shot I needed here, so we helped her out!

...relaxing when it's not their turn to be filmed...

Here, the guys are a safety net to make sure no one tumbles off the edge of the bridge during a song take!

Just (carefully) having some fun!

...getting set up at the English Garden... It's a race against time! Once the sun moves enough, the lighting will turn ugly and we'll have to move on to a different shot.

Waiting to start playing once again... By the end of the day, you have played the song so many times that your fingers begin to rebel! 

Dad had to stick his end pin into a piece of wood to keep it from sinking into the soft earth.

...what a cute, young praying mantis - how nice of him to pay us a visit!

Dad had a marvelous idea to end our long day... go to Culver's! Both the food and the frozen yogurt were especially delicious due to the fact that we were so worn out and hungry!

To watch the finished video, click on the link below! 

This movie was filmed on location at The Dubuque Arboretum and Botanical Gardens. Visit them at 

New YouTube Video!

We were all dead tired after 11 straight hours of filming! I'll share some fun behind-the-scenes pictures and stories later!

We finally have our Schindler's List video up on YouTube! I know some of you have found it by yourselves, but now after working through some technicalities, we're excited to have it up! Have fun watching - and don't forget to subscribe to our channel - our next video will be coming out soon! In the music video below we perform Theme from Schindler's List, a sad movie about the Holocaust. During the Holocaust, about 11 million people (many of them Jews) were exterminated, which is why we chose the somber settings and graveyard scenes.
Here's the link to view it on YouTube!

Music - inextricably tied to our lives!

Music is playing or being played at most times in our house. If you need some peace and quite, find a shady retreat outside and listen to the birds or weed in the garden!


"One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain." - Bob Marley

Editor's note: I'd have to say though that if you get too close to Abigail's grand piano during those big chords in Rhapsody in E flat Major by Brahms, you would say Bob was wrong!


"Beautiful music is the art of the prophets that can calm the agitations of the soul; it is one of the most magnificent and delightful presents God has given us."
- Martin Luther


“Some people have lives; some people have music.” 
― John Green, Will Grayson,

Editor's comment: (And I think we have both and are so much the busier for it! Life is certainly an adventure. Now along those lines.... maybe too much of an adventure lately! ...more on that in a later post.)


“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination
and life to everything.” 
― Plato

Editor's note: Without music, life would certainly be a lot duller (and quieter!) around here!


“Where words leave off, music begins.” 
― Heinrich Heine

Editor's note: Music has so much power to change our emotions! It can be used as a powerful tool - for the good or the bad. When transporting a couple goats recently, we had to be careful what music we listened to on the radio. When the symphony got too intense and scary for them, then would get restless, and worried and then stand up. I guess they couldn't take it lying down. 


“To stop the flow of music would be like the stopping of time itself, incredible and inconceivable.” 
― Aaron Copland

I'll leave you with that thought. Have a wonderful evening!

Serious Singing Talent!

...for a dog, that is!

Our dog Toby doesn't let us down when it comes to musical abilities! Toby is "rug-trained" to the door mat at the front door entrance (meaning that when he is allowed to come inside, he is required to stay on the little door mat). He greatly enjoys this privileged, and begs to take advantage of it whenever possible! Anyway, we practice together as a family almost every evening that we don't have a concert, and some times, Toby happens to be inside and on his little rug during those practices. On certain pieces, as the music gets more intense and emotional, Toby will start to howl. (I'm sorry to say that he hasn't learned how to hit the right pitches yet and, therefore, is ridiculously out of tune!) The howling will increase in volume and number of times per minute as we hit certain pitches on our instruments. (Have you seen a dog howl while he is lying down and his head is flat on its side on the floor? Toby's got talent.) Sooner or later, several of us will break down and start laughing, and the piece we are playing will suffer dreadfully! (It's worth it though to hear his wonderful voice and slightly out-of-tune notes!) Seriously. You gotta hear it sometime! Toby's favorite numbers to join us on are The Orange Blossom Special, The Nutcracker, and The Hallelujah Chorus.  :) 

Our favorite (and only) dog! He's a great furry friend.

Our favorite (and only) dog! He's a great furry friend.

Is the CD done yet???

Answer: Not quite. But it's coming. 

It's a long process! Right now we are waiting to get the final master copy. Once we get that, we will ship a copy off to get it duplicated.

I am almost finished with the graphic design of the disc, insert, inside, and back cover. Those will all be proofread for the second and third times by almost everyone in our family.

Then, we will get into CD production mode while waiting on the discs... We do all the printing, perforating, cutting, folding, inserting, checking, shrink-wrapping, labeling, and packing ourselves. Anyone want to come over and spend a bunch of hours with us on this task??? 


That's all I have time for this week! I hope you are having a marvelous day!

An Ultra-Hectic Weekend

Ever wonder what it's like living at our house? Here's a little peak into our lives this last weekend.

It all began on Friday evening...

Ten rehearsals or concerts (plus other stuff!) that various people in our family either went to, listened to, or performed in. It makes me tired just to think about it!

Our little daily calendar boxes get pretty crammed from all the scheduling on those types of days.

Friday evening:

1.  5:00-7:00 pm Silas had NIJO (Northern Iowa Junior Orchestra) practice, in which he is first cellist, and brought treats this time - our signature yummy homemade chocolate chip cookies!

2.  7:00-9:30 pm Luke had symphony rehearsal with the Wartburg Symphony Orchestra.


3.  10:30-12 am Karen had a rehearsal with the Metropolitan Choral. She played in the orchestra that accompanied the choir. (I enjoyed going along with her to hear them practice - such a big, room-filling sound!) The Met Choral is an 80 voice choir whose director has conducted at the White House, the National Cathedral in Washington D.C., and Carnegie Hall.

4.  9:00 am Luke had Easter choir practice at our church for our Palm Sunday celebration.

5.  1:00 pm Luke had Wartburg Symphony rehearsal

6.  7:30 pm Karen and our mom went to hear a famous violinist, Bella Hristova, at the Des Moines Symphony, getting home after midnight, driving through a rain and lighting storm.

7.  7:30 pm Meanwhile, the rest of us went to hear Luke perform with the Wartburg Symphony and a famous pianist! On the way to the concert, we were trying to dodge a large hail storm in our new Sprinter, Van Gogh. Large dents would not improve its appearance!

Some of the hail was pretty frightful!

Some of the hail was pretty frightful!

We had second row seats in the concert hall and could turn around and see all the way back to the doors where sheets of hail were coming down like crazy. 

The thunder accented different parts of the concert, especially in the soft sections of the music.

With the pianist, Gabrielius Alekna, after the concert...

8.  9:00 am Even though all of us got to bed after midnight, we had to be up again, ready for the day, breakfast eaten, and at our church by 9:00 am for the Palm Sunday celebration. In the picture above, you can see Luke singing in the choir during the service.

9.  3:00 pm After eating brunch at church and helping with the cleanup, we did some practicing at home separately, and then Karen was off to her Metropolitan Choral concert.

10.  3:00 pm Abigail, Silas, our mom, and I went to the Gallagher-Bluedorn Performing Arts Center to hear the 14th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition Gold Medalist, Vadym Kholodenko. His playing was nothing short of spectacular! 

11.  3:30 pm Luke, Seth, and Daddy left home with our instruments and sound equipment to go set up at Whitten for the Whitten Gospel Sing. Those of us at the Van Cliburn concert arrived home and raced around to get ready for the concert with Karen arriving home shortly after we did. (Just so you know, all of this running around in the afternoon and evening is being done in the rain.) Piling into one vehicle, we drove to Whitton, helped the guys set up and test levels, ate supper with everyone at the gospel sing, and then gave our evening concert. By the time we finished playing, talking, and then doing a bit of jamming, it was definitely getting late. We drove home, unpacked, and then fell into bed. Morning comes early.

Oh, and by the way, we were up again at 2:30-3:30 am to see the Blood Moon on Monday night/Tuesday morning.

Sometime soon we are going to catch up on sleep. Maybe.

Have a wonderful Easter celebrating the death and then rising again of our amazing Lord and Savior! 

I am so thankful for all He has done for us. Without Him, there would be no reason to live.

The Naming of Our New Sprinter Van

Yes! It is a very important occasion! 

As you may know, buses need to have names. Especially those buses associated with musical groups.  

The names range from bland and boring (how about "AAA Bus") to sort of ridiculous (like "Floral and Hardy" complete with a photo of shrubs cut to mimic the famous Laurel and Hardy!! The bushes even sported bowler hats!)

Soooo, since we now have a bus, we needed a special name! After all, this bus may travel with us over the next 600,000 + miles thanks to the great build of the Mercedes-Benz!

What would you name a bus?

A bus for an artistic musical group?

Checking out our new Sprinter van in South Carolina

Drum roll....

The name of our new bus is... "Van Gogh" - get it? Van Go!



- a take on the name of that famous artist, Vincent Van Gogh

You can thank Silas and Karen for coming up with this name!

Weird and Wacky

a few fun photos -  a not-so-normal look at what happens when we are setting up for a concert.

(Yes, I know! This post is a day late - sorry!)

Tuning da viola for da concert: a photo-worthy occupation when the photographer spots a neat window in the door just begging to have its picture taken.

Just thinkin' a thought or two...

Sometimes its time to see things in a new way.

Da one and only giving a surprise appearance.

Yep. We have fun around here.

The COOLEST music ever!

The cold is finally leaving us (maybe)! As spring is approaching, we are thinking about Easter and Christ's resurrection, so it is only proper that I post a few pictures from Christmas, the celebration of our Lord coming to earth. 

(Pretty good excuse to use pictures I never got around to using at Christmas, right?)

I'd have to say, it was really cold doing the unloading and packing up for this concert! But, the warmth of the people there more than made up for our shivering.

Take a look at this music! Isn't it just about the best music you've ever seen? 

What a church!  Nope. We didn't try to play the music. I wonder if anyone ever has recorded it...

What a church!

Nope. We didn't try to play the music. I wonder if anyone ever has recorded it...

Here's a close-up for your inspection.

Here's a close-up for your inspection.

CD project update:

Right now, the CD is being mixed by our engineer, and we are working on figuring out the order of the songs. I am designing the new CD cover, insert, back, and disc. The last of the song royalties are being payed, and we are excited about the approaching release!


Wishing you a wonderful day and a joyous spring season.

"And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said." Matthew 28:5-6a


South Carolina!!!


After we finished recording at Brookwood Recording Studio in MI, we started driving east. Hour after hour, we drove through the night. In the dark, the hazy blue Appalachian Mountains were still beautiful: the view from the top of the ridges down to the city lights below in the valley was breathtaking.

We kept driving, enjoying (?) the ice-storm damaged scenery once we finally arrived in South Carolina. It was nice to see green grass! Once we reached the coast, the beautiful beach houses on stilts became a common sight.

Click on a photo to view it full screen, then use the arrows on the sides of the page...

Our (new to us) Sprinter is tall enough for all of us to stand up in and will have much more space available to use on long trips!

Notice the short sleeves of one smart guy! It was 82 degrees in North Carolina - a far cry from the sub-zero temperatures we've been experiencing!

While test-driving the Sprinter, we stopped at the beach for an ultra quick 5 minute break before starting on the loooonnngggg drive home. At this beach on Sullivan's island, deadly currents and deep holes make it a requirement to stay out of water! It was posted that if you decide to disobey, you will be given a $1040 fine! We chose to stay out of the water.

On the way back home, we enjoyed seeing the Appalachians again, this time during the day. The rock layers showing evidence of the world wide flood are an amazing sight!

We drove for many more hours, with 4 of us in one vehicle and 4 in the other. This was one time we were thankful to have 5 drivers to share the driving responsibility! After driving for 26 hours straight, we finally stopped after dark at the Cumberland Inn (at Cumberland College) in Kentucky.

As you can see from the pictures, the hotel was gorgeous and we had an absolutely wonderful time! The hotel even had letters from George H. Bush and Jimmy Carter on their walls from the college's 100th anniversary celebration 24 years ago.

Next morning, it was back to driving again, past the black fences and black barns of Kentucky!

After getting many more hours down the road near Indianapolis, Daddy took us to the Boulder Creek Dining Company for a wonderful lunch/supper at 3pm.

Then the weather took a turn for the worse. First came strong, gusting winds around 60 mph, then torrential rain, and later a few ground level pink clouds! As we crossed the states, the rain turned to ice, and then freezing snowy stuff that sent both vans sliding around the road. Not fun. It makes for REALLY slow travel, especially with large vehicles that aren't weighed down. The last 80 miles took about 4 hours.

In the evening, we stopped at the largest truck stop in the world and purchased an ice cream cake which we split up between vans and then devoured.

South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, and finally Iowa!

After almost 50 hours of driving time, we slid into our driveway at almost 3 AM Friday morning, very glad to be home. We were gone from Sunday afternoon until 3 AM Friday and that includes 2 days of recording to finish up the CD!

Our Second Adventure at Brookwood Recording Studio in Michigan

We are finally back home again! It was a longer trip this time because... well, I'll explain later.

After driving the 8+ hours, we arrived at our hotel, unloaded and... you guessed it! We practiced until 11 pm! The Best Western staff were kind enough to open up the dining hall so that we wouldn't disturb any other guests.

Yep. Practicing is what we've been doing round the clock lately.

Yep. Practicing is what we've been doing round the clock lately.

Next morning, we started recording our first song at Brookwood Recording Studio with David Lau. While listening to and coaching us after each take, he made the discovery that somehow, when we were re-arranging our arrangements in preparation for the CD, a couple bogus notes had crept in!!! Out came the White-Out and Abigail went to work.

IMG_6607byLaura for web.jpg


The problem? Getting the stuff to come out properly!

The problem? Getting the stuff to come out properly!

After some laughs, we finally got enough white-out on the page and got on with the recording.

Next came lunch, then more recording and then going back to the previous session's takes and telling David which ones we wanted. He is SUPER fast (and good!) on those computers.

Then it was back to the hotel, supper, part of a movie, some truffles, and then listening for a long time to all the day's work in the studio.There were many decisions to make on what would go onto the CD. After all, it's on there forever! Kinda scary. And, we had to finish the CD by the end of the next day.

One quick portrait of the group + David Lau, our recording engineer before we hit the road.

One quick portrait of the group + David Lau, our recording engineer before we hit the road.

During the time when the rest of us were recording one song, the guys played Rook,  a really old, fun game.

During the time when the rest of us were recording one song, the guys played Rook,  a really old, fun game.

While we were doing a take, David would be sitting with the score and writing in what takes were best in which places and any mistakes he heard. Such a great help!   Thanks David!

While we were doing a take, David would be sitting with the score and writing in what takes were best in which places and any mistakes he heard. Such a great help! 

Thanks David!

Click on a photo to view it full screen and then use the arrows on the right and the left...

In the early evening we were finished, and started driving. Only instead of going home, we headed east, drove to the coast, and then started back, driving for almost 26 hours non-stop. Very exhausting.

Find out why in next week's edition of the Johnson Strings news!