Texas Tech University

Faculty Spotlight: Rachel Hirshorn-Johnston

Nati Gonzalez

October 25, 2022

Rachel Hirshorn-Johnston

Rachel Hirshorn-Johnston, Associate Professor of Voice & Speech and Head of the Acting/Directing program, is beginning her seventh year at Texas Tech University. In addition to teaching at Texas Tech, she also works as an actor and vocal coach for regional theatres throughout the United States, especially Ford's Theatre in Washington, DC among many others. When she first arrived, she singularly put together protocol for the School in how best to learn from a vocal coach, a massive but worthwhile endeavor. 

A performer at heart, Hirshorn-Johnston is researching and performing in applied performance—storytelling rooted in several different performance "modes" and usually with a socio-political connection like disease, stigma, motherhood, or sociolinguistic bias. She is also working to secure funding for her ongoing research with fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) to analyze cognitive function using various popular live performance methods. This furthers the College's mission to align the arts with health, healing, and medicine. 

These experiences are beneficial to her students because her research and outside work informs her teaching at TTU: “The more we know about how applicable our myriad approaches to live storytelling are to diverse population subsets (i.e. non-performers, patient populations, veteran, etc.) and those without regular access to a stage, the more it will inform the future of professional performance training in higher education and support diversifying creative skillsets.” 

Hirshorn-Johnston credits her college voice professor, Lynn Watson—also someone she refers to as “mentor,” “dear friend,” and “rock”—for cultivating her love of theatre. Of course, she might not have made it to college if she hadn't delivered the daily announcements her senior year in high school: “My teachers wisely came up with this idea to keep me from skipping class—like I did during my first three years—because the announcements were in the middle of the day. It worked. I loved it. It's a miracle I graduated.” 

Voicework is a passion for Hirshorn-Johnston.  She inspires students, truly taking what she learned and “paying it forward.” We are fortunate to have her massive skillset and enthusiastic approach to vocal coaching, the teaching of acting, and unique administrative take in the School of Theatre & Dance.