Claire Gruneis Johnson was born on August 7, 1930, in New Haven, Connecticut. The New York Times headline read “Depression Deepens, 2 Million People Unemployed”. But worse than that, Claire was the third daughter born to German immigrants, Emma und Emil Gurneis. However, Claire was not aware of the great depression or that she was a girl.
Claire’s early music studies, along with her sisters’, were at the Neighborhood House Music School. She started flute when she was eleven years old. (At this time she knew she was a girl.) She and her sisters were known as the Gruneis Trio and were mentioned in the book, They who Speak in Music, a history of the Neighborhood House Music School. After completing high school, where she won all the usual music awards, Claire entered the Juilliard School of Music where she studied with Arthur Lora, the principal of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. Claire met and married a young tenor, who upon graduation joined the Navy.
Claire reaffirmed her femininity and creativity by producing four children. Life eventually took the family to Texas where she gave birth to her fifth child. Not the stay-at-home type mom and needing to escape back into her profession, she resumed her pedagogical career. Mrs. Johnson contacted Eddie Green, re-remembered all her musical information and resumed her career at Lake Highlands.
Eugene Bonelli, Dean of Fine Arts at SMU invited her to teach and she taught at SMU for thirty-two years. She also taught at East Texas State University. Active in the flute community, Mrs. Johnson lectured at NFA, TBA and TMEA. She founded the Texas Flute Society Festival, the Myrna Brown Competition, and Floot Fire, a weeklong flute camp for junior high and high school students. At the age of sixty-five, Mrs. Johnson joined the faculty at the University of Houston. She finally retired from university teaching in 2000 and maintains a private studio in Richardson. Mrs. Johnson also retains connections with the Richardson Independent School District.