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30/206 - Reber Nettleton Johnson (1890-1966)

Reber Nettleton JohnsonReber Nettleton Johnson was born on June 7, 1890 in Sandusky, Ohio. A descendant of two prominent Sandusky families, his mother Alice Reber was a well-known musician in the area. Johnson’s Island in Sandusky Bay, site of a prison camp during the Civil War, was named for his paternal grandfather, Leonard B. Johnson. His father, Leonard Summer, was personal secretary to General Alvred Bayard Nettleton (O.C. student from 1859 to 1866, O.C. Trustee from 1870 to 1892). Nettleton was editor and publisher of the Sandusky Register of Ohio and later an Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the cabinet of President Benjamin Harrison from 1890–1892. General Nettleton (1838–1911) financed the early violin training of his namesake.

A child prodigy, Reber Johnson began performing at the age of seven, and studied violin with many notable teachers in New York City, Chicago, London, and Paris. He spent his first year of college at the University of Chicago and received a B.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering from Brown University in 1914. In 1917 he became first violinist in the New York Symphony Orchestra under Walter Damrosch (d. 1950). Later he served as Assistant Concertmaster and soloist for this symphony. In February 1926 he left the New York Symphony Orchestra in order to join the Oberlin Conservatory Faculty. He remained a Professor of Violin and Ensemble at the College until his retirement in 1955.

During thirty years of teaching at Oberlin he made numerous concert tours and gave many local recitals. In the summers from 1926 to 1944, he was assistant Concertmaster of the Chatauqua Symphony of New York. The Julliard School of Music offered a scholarship for students to study with him at Chatauqua. At Oberlin, students considered Johnson a fine teacher, a great artist, and a person of integrity.

He married Esther Andrews, daughter of Professor George Whitfield Andrews, in Finney Chapel on December 2, 1927. The two had no children. Reber Johnson died after a long illness on May 31, 1966, age 75, at the Welcome Nursing Home in Oberlin, Ohio.

Sources Consulted
Faculty File of Reber N. Johnson (RG 28)
Oberlin College Seal -