Faculty Feature – Nina Johnston

The featured faculty of November is Antonina ‘Nina’ Johnston, a private voice teacher, entrepreneur, graduate student, and lecturer at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She has been teaching private voice lessons for the past fourteen years and is the owner of Johnston Voice Studio, LLC. In 2021, she earned a University Innovation Fellowship through the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford University. In addition to her busy schedule, she and her family are dedicated to promoting music education, equity, inclusivity, and access to the performing arts. We spoke with Nina about her experiences with entrepreneurship – to learn more, read on.

How did you choose UWM? Music Education and Nonprofit Management as focuses?

Nina: “UW-Milwaukee was an easy choice for me. UWM has so many opportunities and degree programs to explore. I had been teaching and running my own private voice studio for over a decade and my interests did not fit in with one clear path. I loved teaching music but had interests in growing my business and branching out to arts management. I quickly realized that if I was going to make the investment of a graduate degree, I needed the freedom to explore multiple career paths and I was very lucky to work with faculty and mentors that allowed me to do that.”

What projects have you been working on?

Nina: “I am a recent recipient of the LEC Curriculum Innovation Grant and am currently researching and designing a graduate certificate in Creative Industries. It has been a goal of mine to integrate the arts and entrepreneurship, especially for performing artists. I have the honor to teach Music 604 (Business for Performing Artists), where I can share what I have learned in design thinking and having an entrepreneurial mindset with young performing artists. The best part of teaching a course like this is that I have the opportunity to continue to learn from my students and colleagues.”

What has your journey been like? What challenges have you had to face, and how did you overcome them?

Nina: “This is a tough question! The journey has not been easy, I have struggled to find where I belong because I have interests in multiple areas. I can’t say that I have overcome finding where I belong, but I can say I am open to whatever opportunity comes my way. Being a University Innovation Fellow has encouraged me to leave my comfort zone and push me to the next level in addition to introducing me to the amazing community at the LEC.”

What advice would you give to others interested in entrepreneurship?

Nina: “An entrepreneurial mindset can initially feel overwhelming. It doesn’t mean that you have to start a new business, create a new app, or invent a never-before-seen gadget. Entrepreneurship is about exploring every idea, not limiting yourself, collaborating with people that have different ideas, and taking risks.”

Nina has been a wonderful member of our UWM community, and the LEC looks forward to seeing what she does next.