In Memoriam

David Johnson (October 1, 1948 – June 7, 2020)

We are saddened by the passing of David Johnson, one of the founding members of PARTCH Ensemble. David was the Head of Percussion Studies at the California Institute of the Arts, where he served on the faculty for 26 years. Several members of the Ensemble studied with David at CalArts, and it was thanks to his recommendations to John Schneider that most of us are in the band. Erin, Matt, Nick, and I all studied directly with David in the CalArts percussion program, and Derek and Alex knew him in the few years before David’s retirement in 2017. Vicki and Alison knew David as fellow faculty members at CalArts…needless to say, our musical lives were greatly entwined, as well as enhanced, through the years we were fortunate enough to spend playing, learning, and laughing alongside David.

David was also an integral part of our ensemble’s success and longevity: for many years, the instruments were kept in David’s garage in his Mt. Washington home overlooking Chavez Ravine and Dodger Stadium, just over the Los Angeles River. Every year in preparation for our performance season, John and I would set up the instruments in the open room in David’s home: the band spent weeks rehearsing every summer, learning new and challenging music, and strengthening the bonds of friendship and artistry that kept us together for so many years.

This page is a memorial to David, his life, his music, and his genuine love for the arts. We wanted to find as many photos, stories, and memories as we could, and combine them here to give us all a chance to celebrate David’s amazing life and contributions to the Los Angeles musician’s community. If you have a photo, a story, or a quote you’d like to share, please send it to me at info@partch.la, and I will continue adding to this page.

David will continue to have a lasting impact on our ensemble. We are in the process of creating an ongoing fund in David’s memory, dedicated to creating new music to be performed on the Partch instruments in our collection. Anyone wishing to support this fund can follow the link below.


We are very grateful for the time we were able to spend making music with David, and his contributions to our group, as well as the impact he had with each of us individually as a teacher, a colleague, and a member of the Los Angeles music scene, will never be forgotten.

– T.J. Troy

Written on behalf of all members of PARTCH Ensemble, past and present

5 Replies to “In Memoriam”

  1. So sorry to hear this. Although i didn’t know david myself, as great admirers of the ensemble, please accept my condolences. it sounds like his memory will surely be a blessing.

  2. Sadly, i say Goodbye to my Brother in Law, David. I will always cherish the many family gatherings fIlled with music and your famous Morning waffles! Rest in peace and thank you for all the wonderful memories.

  3. i first met dj at oakwood school’s academy of creative education, where i had the honor of being a student of his. My first year there, as a middle schooler, he (along with fellow partch member tj) taught me about modes, introducing me to a whole new world of harmony, composition and improvisation.

    after i graduated high school, i became a faculty member at ace and had the pleasure of working alongside dj. one year, he taught an ensemble right after me in the same room i was teaching group piano lessons in. he’d always come in early to set up his vibes before the end of my class. we were working on jazz improvisation, so dj would often jam with us. and man, he knew how to command a room with his playing. i don’t know that i’ll ever meet a finer percussionist or vibraphone player.

    he was an incredible teacher, musician and person. he’ll be missed dearly.

  4. Beautiful man, great human being. I loved working with him on partch and other projects. wonderful and humble colleague at calarts. Very sad. condolences to ivan and the family. will miss him.

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