Samantha Johns

Samantha Johns' power portrait

President's Scholar

Major:  Music Education
College of Humanities & the Arts

Why did you choose your major?

Playing music is fun! I feel as if I could leave it at that but I will elaborate. Music has always been a part of my life, in one way or another, since I was a child. Going to band class, flute choir rehearsals and late-night marching band rehearsals were the best part of each day. No matter how exhausted I was, I would get up and go to early morning rehearsals because there was something about playing music that brought me joy. While applying to colleges, I figured that there was no reason to give up that fun in search of a career. I simply took the best part of my life and turned it into a career! By pursuing a degree in music education and performance, I am able to pass on my love of music to children, who can form a lifelong relationship with the art.

What does receiving this particular award mean to you?

When I found out that I was being honored as a President’s Scholar, I smiled from ear to ear. I never thought that it was something I would achieve and I honestly hadn’t even set it as a goal. My number one goal was to learn the material as best I could so I could become an excellent teacher. I stayed up late and woke up early to study, did all my assignments, and asked questions because I couldn’t stand the idea of not understanding a topic. I feel an intrinsic reward when I can explain a concept to a classmate or when I successfully apply it to my own teaching. Receiving this award is a great affirmation that my hard work and dedication is seen and recognized by others as well.

Who has had the greatest influence or impact on your life? In addition, tell us about a SJSU faculty member who contributed to your academic success.

Without a doubt, my parents have been the greatest influence on my life. Ever since I was a child, they have provided me with everything necessary to succeed. When I wanted to play the flute, they got me private lessons. When I dreamed about being in a soccer league, they took me to the try out. When I had late-night activities, they grabbed a coffee and drove me across town. And when I struggled in biology, they sat down and explained photosynthesis with an incredible amount of chocolate chips. They sacrificed their free time, money and most of their sanity to help me achieve my goals. Without their love and support, I would not be where I am today. Thank you, mom and dad! As for SJSU faculty members, I owe so much to so many faculty members, but for now I would like to thank my flute instructor Catherine Payne. She is a fabulous flute and piccolo player and has pushed me further than I ever imagined. I have been lucky to study with her for four years and am glad that I was able to soak up a little bit of her knowledge. Thank you, Cathy, for believing in me even though I hated playing etudes!

Describe an experience that has shaped who you are today.

There is no particularly awe-inspiring event in my life that has shaped who I am today. Instead, I view all of my interactions over the last four years as formative experiences.  When I first began taking my music education courses I was overwhelmed with information and thought there was no way in the world I would be able to remember every little detail. And you know what? I wasn’t completely wrong. Throughout my observations of teachers and my own work as a music instructor, I have learned that college is not about learning every detail of your future career, but about obtaining the skills and resources to solve your problems as they arise. Even some of the greatest music teachers call in specialists and ask colleagues for help in areas in which they themselves are weaker. I have learned not to be so terrified of my lack of knowledge because I have a vast network of intelligent individuals who are happy to help fill in the gaps. The last four years of my education have not only expanded my mind but have also helped me develop into a confident and ever-curious educator.

What would you say to other students to encourage or inspire them to attain academic success?

My biggest piece of advice would be to pick a career path that excites you and brings joy to your life daily. If you are truly interested in what you are studying, then your curiosity will fuel your success naturally. Also, do not be turned away by frustration; it is hard work in disguise. If you work through your frustrations, you will once again find that excitement and joy.

What makes you a Spartan?

Attending San Jose State has made me a confident, independent and intelligent individual. SJSU has taught me to work with others, take ownership of my education, speak up for myself, and be a positive influence to my own students. All of these characteristics are what make me a Spartan, and I am proud to say that I learned this while attending San Jose State.


Nominated by Dr. Fred Cohen, Director of School of Music and Dance
“Samantha is an excellent student, one of the finest UG flute players in SJSU history. She is a music ed/performance double major; a stellar person/personality.”