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Sean's Biography

Sean Johnson Jazz

Photo by Ken Ge


Santa Fe based saxophonist, videographer & composer Sean Johnson was born in San Francisco, CA and grew up in the Southwest. Sean began his formal musical training at an early age with the Phoenix Boys Choir. Sean went on to join the Albuquerque Boys Chorus and participated in the World Choral Festival for Men & Boys, where he was featured as a solo artist.

After moving to Tucson AZ, Sean began studying the saxophone with recording artist Neamen Lyles and enrolled in the Tucson Jazz Institute (formerly the Arizona Jazz Academy). At the Institute, he studied improvisation with saxophonist Brice Winston & bassist Scott Black, & big band jazz with trombonist and Jazz Lincoln Center clinician, Doug Tidaback. In high school, he became involved with the nationally recognized Tucson Symphony Orchestra: Young Composers Project. Grammy Award-winning cellist Yo Yo Ma said of the project, that "in all [his] years of working with symphony orchestras, [he] had never encountered such an extraordinary program.”

Sean was awarded multiple, full-tuition scholarships to attend award winning music programs throughout the United States and ultimately choose to enroll in the Frost School of Music at the University of Miami. There, he studied saxophone with Gary Keller, Phil Doyle and Mark Small; improvisation with professor emeritus, Whit Sidnerjazz arranging with Grammy award-winning arranger, Gary Lindsay; and composition with Martin Bejerano and MacArthur Genius Dafnis Prieto. He graduated with a Bachelor of Music from the university in May 2016.


Sean has over a decade of experience playing with big bands and ensembles. His performance credits include Jazz @ Lincoln Center, Monterey Jazz Festival, Festival Miami, Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola and the Blue Whale, to name a few.


He has received a host of music accolades including multiple solo and outstanding musicianship awards with the Tucson Jazz Institute Ellington Band and Blue Note Combo, from the NAU Jazz, Fullerton, Monterey NextGen Jazz and Jazz Lincoln Center: Essentially Ellington Festivals; in addition to multiple Downbeat Student Music Awards. In 2016, Sean's KAiROS sextet (formerly known as the Dafnis Prieto Artist Ensemble) scored first place in the Monterey NextGen Festival and Competition College Combo division. 

Sean has worked closely with many of the industry's finest, including: Grammy Award-winning trumpet player Terence Blanchard,
Brice Winston, Grammy Award-winning pianist Gonzalo RubalcabaNicole Mitchell, Jason Palmer, Fabian Almazan, John Hart, Mac-Arthur Fellow Dafnis Prieto, and Mac-Arhtur Fellow Vijay Iyer, among others.



After graduating from the University of Miami, Sean traveled home to the Southwest, settling in the foothills of the Sangre De Cristo mountains in Sante Fe, NM. During the summer of 2016, he participated in a residency at the Banff Centre for Arts & Creativity in Alberta, Canada: Vijay Iyer's Workshop in Jazz & Creative Music. Afterwards, he reunited with his friend, mentor and producer, Dafnis Prieto, along with the members of the groundbreaking sextet, KAiROS, in Miami, FL to record their debut album and embark on their first tour. On the Miami/California the tour, the ensemble traveled from the Bay Area to Los Angeles and performed concerts and clinics across the state with notable stops at the 2016 Monterey Jazz Festival and the Blue Whale. Sean then immediately departed for Rome where he began a 6-month performance contract touring aboard the luxury cruise vessel, the Celebrity Silhouette. He traveled to dozens of ports of call in the Mediterranean & Caribbean, performing with critically-acclaimed artists and entertainers from around the world including: Ollie Nez, Jessie Hamilton Jr., Pete Matthews, Jane Cho, and Michael "Big Mike" Daigeau among many others.

Since returning to Santa Fe in March, 2017, Sean has begun to gig with local, New Mexican artists in the cities vibrant music scene. He can be seen performing around town in various venues with musicians of the highest caliber including: John Rangel, Scott Rosenthal, Colin Dubel,
Andy Kingston, Tom Rheam, Lee Steck, Chris Bowman, Andy Zadrozny and soon, many more!

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