Johanna Anderson

Congratulations to Johanna Anderson, CUW’s associate director of instrumental music, on her new appointment as director of the Lakeshore Symphonic Band, based in Cedarburg.

From the moment she first picked up a baton and directed a band, Johanna Anderson knew that’s what she wanted to do. It happened after she won the prestigious John Philip Sousa Award as the top student in her high school band, and was given the opportunity to conduct a piece (a Sousa march, naturally) at the spring concert her senior year.

“I actually don’t remember this,” Anderson recalls, “but my mom told me that after the concert I came up to her and said, ‘Mom, that’s what I want to do!’ It was so fun!”

A native of Baraboo, Wisconsin, Anderson is a 2013 graduate of CUW, where she studied music education and Spanish. After graduation, she taught middle school band and orchestra for two years. Then, when a position opened up at Concordia, she was thrilled to accept the offer.

“I always knew that I wanted to teach at the college level, but I didn’t expect to get an opportunity so soon,” she says.

Perhaps she shouldn’t have been surprised.

“Johanna was our only consideration to join our music staff at the time of her appointment,” says Dr. Louis Menchaca, CUW’s director of instrumental music and music department chair. “Her work, both as a student and as a music professional was spectacular. Her genuine love for teaching, the craft, and her students is self-evident.”

A multi-talented musician

As Concordia’s associate director of instrumental music (she also serves as a recruiter for the Department of Music) Anderson has also taken advantage of the opportunity to use her skills to fill out various CUW ensembles. Her true love is the oboe (she started out playing saxophone), but she is also quite proficient at trumpet and viola, and can hold her own on clarinet and flute, as well. “I’m really what you would call a woodwind specialist,” she says.

Playing trumpet was useful for teaching middle schoolers, she says, because you conduct with one hand while playing along with the other. As for string instruments, she gravitated toward the viola “because it’s different,” she explains. “It’s not as popular as the violin, so it seems like we can always use another viola player.”

All of which to say, Anderson has a very wide range of music abilities and interests. Which is something that makes her well suited for her new role.

A multi-faceted role model

Part of what makes this opportunity so exciting is the easing of Covid-related restrictions. The concert Anderson guest conducted in March was the group’s first in more than two years. They’ve been without a permanent director for quite some time, and everyone is thrilled to have her take the helm.

“Personally, I love her enthusiasm; I love her spunk, her energy,” said Haly Besaw, president of the Lakeshore Symphonic Band Board, in a recent article in the News Graphic. “And she really knows how to select music that will challenge the band yet pleases the crowds.”

It’s also special because it’s still somewhat rare for a woman to conduct at this level. Less than 30 percent of high school and college band directors are female, Anderson points out, so she hopes to be something of a role model for young women with similar ambitions.

The opportunity came following a recommendation by Menchaca, himself a former LSB director.

“She joins the many outstanding CUW music alumni coming before her, working in the professional music world who are making a true difference in the lives of so many of our students,” Menchaca says. “We also get to say, ‘She is one of ours!’”

And, in case you’re wondering, this doesn’t mean we’ll be losing her; the new position is part-time. “I love my job here, and that will always be a priority,” she emphasizes. If anything, her new duties will help raise Concordia’s profile in the Southeastern Wisconsin music community.

“I sure hope so!” she says of that possibility. “That would make me very happy. And to work with this level of musicians­—it has been very exciting. I’m so honored to be a part of this group.”

For more information about music programs at Concordia University Wisconsin, visit the Department of Music at

— This story is written by Mike Zimmerman, corporate communications manager for Concordia University Wisconsin. He may be reached at or 262-243-4380.

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