Honolulu Symphony members and former colleagues said Johanos was an effective recruiter of up-and-coming musicians and a new music champion, according to the paper. He won an American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) Award for "adventuresome programming of contemporary music" in 1991, although his enthusiasm for new music reportedly met some resistance from the Honolulu Symphony board and audience.
James Moffitt, the orchestra's assistant principal clarinetist, who was hired by Johanos in 1981, told the Advertiser that the conductor worked hard to "build bridges" with the local community and to strengthen the finances of the HSO, an often financially instable institution.
Johanos joined the Honolulu Symphony in 1979 after the retirement of music director Robert La Marchina; he left during a labor dispute which resulted in the cancellation of the the 1993-94 season, which would have been his last, according to the Advertiser.
The Iowa-born Johanos initially studied the violin and graduated in 1952 from the Eastman School of Music. In 1958 he won the International Conductors Competition sponsored by the Netherlands Radio Union.
He became music director and principal conductor of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra in 1962, remaining until 1970, and later became associate conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony. He first guest-conducted the Honolulu Symphony in 1978.
In 1993, Johanos directed the production of the Honolulu Symphony's first recording in some years, titled "Three Works by Dan Welcher." Welcher spent a year in Hawaii as the orchestra's composer in residence (a short lived program instituted by Johanos).
Johanos's guest conducting engagements included the Mostly Mozart Festival in New York, Lisbon's Golden Festival, the Paris Opera and performances with the Philadelphia, Boston, San Francisco, Chicago and the National Symphony Orchestras.