Elva Joan Johnson
16 October, 1932 – 24 July, 2020
Elva Joan Barabash Johnson, 87, of Alpharetta GA, sadly passed away on Friday, July 24, 2020. She was born on October 16, 1932 in Chicago, the only child of Olga Perch Barabash and a locally famous high school and college band director, John Barabash. John led a Ukrainian band in Chicago parades and taught in a tuition-free music school, where his students included Benny Goodman. Elva followed in her father’s footsteps and became a fantastic pianist, performing as a youth soloist with the Chicago Symphony at age 16. She was a scholarship student and a member of Mu Phi Epsilon at Chicago Musical College and Northwestern University, graduating with performance and academic honors. Her primary piano teachers were Howard Wells and master teacher and internationally-renowned concert pianist Rudolph Ganz. Elva met her husband, Robert Johnson, through the Oak Park Presbyterian Church young adult group in 1959. They were married less than a year later in November 1960, and remained happily married, sharing their love of music and travel, until his passing in 2005.
Elva maintained an active career as a pianist and teacher, serving on the faculty of Chicago Musical College, Harper College in Palatine IL, and Lawrence University in Appleton WI. She was a member of the Atlanta, Gwinnett and North Fulton chapters of Music Teachers National Association, where she frequently presented lecture-recitals, and was president of the Fox Valley Symphony League.
Throughout her career, she also gave numerous solo and two-piano recitals, chamber music concerts, and accompanied leading artists. One of her most beloved musical endeavors was singing with her husband in the Dunwoody United Methodist Church Choir. She also enjoyed serving as the Women’s Choir accompanist. Another of Elva’s greatest joys was mentoring children as a private teacher. She began her private studio at age 18 and continued teaching well into her 80’s, passing on the legacy of her teachers and sharing her love of music with her daughters and grandchildren. She was passionate about bringing a musical score to expressive realization, communicating the composer’s feelings and reaching people through music.
Elva loved to travel, read historical non-fiction, and discuss music and art. She loved to spend time with her family, and always let them know they were loved.
In her last years, Elva lived in an apartment at The Mansions of Alpharetta, where she was blessed and fortunate to find some of the most wonderful friends of her life. With these brilliant and talented people, she enjoyed erudite discussions, musicales, witty conversation and spontaneous singing at meals, and playing piano duets in the lobby. They enriched her last years with love and joy beyond measure, and she always mentioned that she couldn’t believe how lucky she was to know them.
Elva is survived by her daughters Jeanne Johnson and Louise Meeker (Steve), and her grandchildren Jack Meeker (Charlotte) and Samantha Meeker. Her memorial service will be held remotely on Saturday, August 15 at 11:00 a.m. on Dunwoody United Methodist Church’s link at livestream.com/dunwoodyumc. It will also be available for viewing at a later time.
In lieu of flowers, donations in Elva’s name may be made to the Atlanta Music Project, a tuition-free music school whose mission is “Music for Social Change,” at atlantamusicproject.org.
No public services are scheduled at this time. Receive a notification when services are updated.
Elva Joan Johnson
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18 August 2020
My deepest sympathy to Louise and Jeanne and to all of Elva's family. I'll certainly miss her news filled Christmas letters and knowing that her spirit is out there spreading joy. We shared many fun events together while serving the Fox Valley Symphony League in Appleton. She also introduced me to the Harpischord. Thank you for letting us know.
14 August 2020
I met Mrs.Elva Johnson about 5 months ago at The Mansions where she resided. As her care companion, It was truly a pleasure being in her presence. She stole my heart from the very first time I met her. I enjoyed our many conversations and I loved when her whole face will light up when she talked about music, her daughters, and grandchildren. Her smile was everything and it was my goal to make sure I saw it everyday! My deepest condolences goes out to the family. I absolutely miss her!
I smile when I think about the many times we will make music with our mouth’s and she will do a little dance moving her shoulders and arms! She was a very special person and I feel blessed to have met her!
E. L. Lancaster
11 August 2020
Elva was my colleague and two-piano partner when we were both on the faculty of Harper College. We played recitals almost every year for 3 or 4 years. What a learning experience this was for me! She was a fantastic musician and pianist.
At this time, I also got to know and love the Johnson family. My wife and I visited them when they lived in Appleton. They visited us here in California. We always eagerly awaited Christmas cards each year from the family. Every few years, I would present a workshop in the Atlanta area. I always got to re-connect with Elva then as she attended the workshops and we would have lunch after.
We have lost a dear friend as well as a marvelous pianist and teacher. It is hard to imagine the world without her.
10 August 2020
Elva was my music/church friend for many years. We sang in the Dunwoody United Methodist Church choir and shared many wonderful memories--choir trips, recitals of her students, visits to choir friends. I will always think of Elva as a graceful lady, always kind and caring. She was most proud of her daughters and grandchildren--you blessed her life wonderfully. May you be comforted by her memory and her abiding love.
3 August 2020
I am so sorry for your loss. Elva was my teacher when I attended Harper. I performed in a master class the year one of her daughters did as well. She got a puppy for participating. It was a special treat for me that we ended up in the same GMTA chapter here in Georgia. We shared many lunches and attended workshops together for many years. I will miss her.
Roswell Funeral Home and Green Lawn Cemetery
27 July 2020
The staff of Roswell Funeral Home and Green Lawn Cemetery would like to extend our most sincere condolence to the Johnson Family. We would like to thank you for entrusting the care of your love one into our hands. Please remember you are not alone and we will always be here for you.