The student has become the teacher for a second time — 38 years later.
The new band director at East Jessamine High School is Tim Johnson, a 55-year-old music professional who was in the band at Jessamine County High School.
Johnson has been working with the bands at East part-time since January and will start full-time in the fall. He taught music in Jessamine County for 16 years after graduating from Asbury and then spent 16 years as general manager for Curnow Music Press while under an exclusive composing contract.
“I did a little bit of everything, from scheduling to recording sessions to going out to clinics; you name it,” Johnson said.
When the company was bought by Hal Leonard, Johnson’s job was cut. He has spent the last two years as music director at Centenary United Methodist Church in Danville while teaching two music-technology classes at Asbury University and conducting a band for retired people in Danville.
Johnson said he realized he wanted to return to teaching after starting to work with the East band in January.
“When I was doing music publishing, people would ask me if I missed teaching, and I came back with a real quick ‘no,’ because I really enjoyed what I was doing in publishing,” he said. “... As I (worked at East), I came to understand that I really did miss teaching, missed the interaction with the students and seeing the progress that they made.”
The void Johnson fills is one that’s had its share of turmoil. The school board had questioned East’s hiring of former director Rex Payton in 2010, and Payton was fired in January after he was charged with selling school instruments for personal gain.
“When I came in January, I basically had a heart-to-heart talk with the kids and said, ‘Look, I can’t do anything about what’s happened right now to this point,’” Johnson said. “... The other stuff is there, and we’re still dealing with effects, fallout from that, but I can’t deal with that; all I can do at this point is continue to try to build community with them.”
Johnson said he hopes the community-building goes beyond the walls of the school as the band becomes involved in more events.
“Beyond the pure music education, which is one of my primary roles, I also want to see leadership developed,” he said. “That’s important for the students; it’s also important, in my view, to the community.”
Increasing involvement with the middle school is another goal of Johnson’s — with the hope that the high-school band program will become a home to students.
“It’s not easy sometimes to make the jump from middle school to high school,” he said. “My experience has been that the ones who are involved with band have, generally, a smooth transition period, because before school starts, they’ve already been involved with a high-school function with band camp, and they’ve already developed a core of people that they’re comfortable with. So when they walk in, they’ve already got a home.”