MILLTOWN — Travel to St. Mark’s nearly any time of the morning, afternoon or early evening, and you’ll likely see Evan Johnson keeping busy. He could be carrying books or a ball, or on the stage in the theater, but most likely he’ll be playing a musical instrument.
Johnson, a junior, picked up his artistic inklings early. His father, Rick, is the music teacher at Christ the Teacher School, which is where Johnson went to elementary school. He started playing the violin while in kindergarten.
“When I was at Christ the Teacher, I started with the saxophone because I though it looked cool,” Johnson said recently at St. Mark’s. “Started playing alto saxophone. Then sixth grade came along, and I was like, there’s a lot of altos, and I want to be against the grain. I want to do the tenor saxophone, so I started playing that.”
He has picked up the guitar and drums and just about any other instrument he comes across. His father plays the piano, but Johnson hasn’t figured the keyboard out yet, he said.
Christ the Teacher offered band and choir and had musicals, all of which Johnson participated in. He has expanded that at St. Mark’s to include theater. In fact, that was one of the reasons he chose the school.
“I liked the arts department. I’m not a big fan of auditions; I’ve never done too well with them. I like how everyone gets in. Anyone’s allowed to be involved. I like that whole feel,” he said.
“Some schools didn’t have a marching band or a chorus or a band. St. Mark’s had all of it, and they had theater. I didn’t even think about theater until I got here. I did theater in middle school, but it wasn’t my focus. Once I came here and saw it, I did tech production for the fall play my freshman year. I wasn’t really sure if I wanted to be involved, so I did something small. Once I saw the play, I was like, ‘I want to be involved in this, too.’ Then I started acting and being in the musicals and the plays.”
St. Mark’s will offer its fall production the weekend of Nov. 16-18. It consists of five plays based on Edgar Allen Poe stories, and Johnson will be in two of them: “The Oblong Box” and “The Fall of the House of Usher.” The other three short stories are “The Tell-Tale Heart,” “The Cask of Amontillado” and “The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether.”
Johnson took his love of the arts to the University of Delaware over the summer for the Governor’s School for Excellence, a weeklong workshop where rising juniors receive college-level instruction in academic, artistic and leadership development. He was there for instrumental music.
“It was a week of me working with an adjunct professor at the University of Delaware, getting pieces learned for a showcase at the end. It was really getting the college feel. It was a good experience,” he said.
He is also a member of the Delaware Youth Wind Ensemble, which is run by the community music school at the University of Delaware. The students practice each Sunday in anticipation of a concert, which will be held Dec. 9.
In addition, Johnson helps his dad out at Christ the Teacher on occasion, particularly for graduation. He participated last year in a talent show for alumni and current students, this time singing instead of playing an instrument. He said now that his sister, Emma — also a graduate of St. Mark’s — is back in school at West Chester University, he is the best singer in the house.
Johnson’s musical and theatrical endeavors keep him at St. Mark’s most nights until 6 or 7, later on those Friday nights that include a football game. He will be performing at the school’s open house this weekend, and he is getting ready for the annual drumline with the Salesianum band when those football teams meet on Nov. 9.
“This is home, like the motto says. I spend more time here than at my actual home. I go home to sleep,” he said.
Home is in north Wilmington, and Johnson also keeps busy at home, including as an altar server at his parish, Holy Rosary in Claymont. In the spring, he adds another activity to his arts as a member of the boys’ volleyball team at St. Mark’s. He likes the variety of activities available at St. Mark’s.
“There’s a lot of stuff to be involved in,” he said. “You can never say, ‘I have nothing to do.’”