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Brian Johnson talks Peggy Still School of Music

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In this Spotlight on Local Talent, We caught up with Brian Johnson, who is the current owner of the Peggy Still School of Music.

First of all, how did you get involved at Peggy Still School of Music?

I met Peggy in the summer of 2010. I was working as the COO for a private equity-owned utility services company at the time and knew that a sale was in the near future. We did not do the deal then, but kept in touch and eventually got a deal done where I would become majority owner of the company, run it day-to-day and retain the name and Peggy as my business partner. I was excited to combine my love for kids and music in a business setting, especially a successful small business like the School. So far, things are working out very well.

Peggy Still and Brian Johnson in their Alpharetta studio with Wednesday's child, including the two kids they are trying to place, Dorie Jackson from GSU School of Music and Angela Davis from the Atlanta Fox News affiliate

The school has been around in Atlanta for years and there is definitely a history here, what can you tell me about the school itself?

Peggy founded the School over 22 years ago as a private music teacher and a sideline to her career as a performer. Today, we teach over 600 private music lessons per week from our three locations in Atlanta (where we have a great long term relationship with Cooper Music), Woodstock and Alpharetta. That’s up from about 550 lessons just six months ago, and all credit to Peggy, our operations manager, David Rogers and the teachers at the School for driving that success. Lessons are primarily private piano, voice and guitar for students between the ages of 5 and 17, but we really teach all ages, all styles, all instruments and all levels. We have thriving practices in classical piano and voice with three recitals and one advanced recital per year, what I call the “Broadway/Disney musical” kids who take voice lessons and sing at community festivals throughout the year, and huge group of pop/rock/singer/songwriter type students who play out at open mic events and local ice cream shops and restaurants. And we are just at the onset of a very exciting push into studio recording, production and artist development, as we will build our own studio in Alpharetta this spring

David Rogers and Brian Johnson

Peggy Still is on the board for the Grammy’s in the Georgia chapter, what else is she active in the Atlanta community?

She is also on the board of the Atlanta Music Project and involved as a mentor in the Wednesday’s Child foster placement initiative. Professionally, she is a copyist and vocal coach for the upcoming Stephen King/John Mellencamp driven production of “The Ghost Brothers of  Darkland County,” a new musical premiering in Atlanta in April 2012.  She’s kind of a dynamo and I’m lucky to be partnered with her and the School.
Peggy is also on the Advisory Board for Georgia State University School of Music and on the board for the Atlanta Film Festival. Like I said…dynamo.
What makes your school stand out?

We know that there is a lot of competition for extracurricular dollars, and as a parent myself, I really want our families to feel like they get a great experience and good value from the School. We have rules and policies like everyone one else, but if we can be flexible in the name of music education and customer appreciation, we usually figure out a way to do it.

We try to be very responsive, too. Promptly returned calls and proactive conversations on scheduling issues and student development are big deals here. Over the past few months, we have added acoustic foam in our Alpharetta practice rooms, improved our event management communications and put some nice comfortable leather chairs, laptop homework desks and free wi-fi in our lobby to make it more comfortable for parents (and little brothers and sisters) waiting for students during lesson times…all suggestions from customers.

We also really emphasize public performance opportunities, where all of that hard work in practice rooms gets to bloom in the sunshine. This year we have over 20 performance opportunities for our students on the calendar, and that will grow throughout the year.

And certainly the most important part of our School is our versatile, talented, dedicated staff of music teachers. We have teachers who sing with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, have roles in local and regional musical theater and operatic productions. We have the founder of Capital City Opera as a teacher…and then, on the other end of the musical spectrum, we have professional gigging pop/rock musicians. We have several fantastic public and private school music teachers. One of our teachers is the organist for the Atlanta Braves, and also a very well respected accordion player and jazz musician. The list of our teachers’ accomplishments is mind-boggling. Students can not only start here at an early age to get a rock solid foundation in music, but grow in many different directions within the School as they hone and refine their own tastes in music.

What would you want to tell any young person thinking about getting involved in music?

Practice! But beyond that, feel good that you are building muscles that you can flex and depend upon throughout  your life. If you want to lead, if you want to inspire, if you want to make people feel good about where they live and who they are and how they think about things…play music.

More importantly, what would you tell their parents?

The same stuff, plus that music education is a proven enhancer of academic performance. It’s vegetables hidden in candy.

 

Artists to Watch

Cry With Us! Puddles Pity Party in Orlando

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Ange Alex

I owe him a poem:

Here’s a story of a sad clown who one night in February was traveling through O-town. 

He brought a suitcase and a lot of gum, he brought music and videos and tons of fun.

He sang high but mostly he sang low, and he put of one hell of a good show.

He gave a bearded guy a cupcake and danced with a lady, a wolf he would make

There is no doubt he is a boss sir, he even got love from Kevin Costner.

Fans filled the plaza for a night of delight as the 7 foot clown gave us some real insight.

He sang Bowie and Queen and even some Who, also Cash, Lorde and “Let it go” too

Videos played of pets and babies crying, also beautiful artwork and people smiling.

Last night Orlando was anything but mad as we showed much love for a clown that is sad.

Ok, I’d cry too after that poem. Here’s some more info:

If you haven’t been to see a Puddles Pity Party show, you are missing out. 

The show had me smiling and laughing so hard my stomach hurt, but I was also moved so many times by the range of Puddles voice. True entertainment never gets old and I have a feeling he is going to last forever.

I loved the interaction he had with the crowd. He pulled numerous people up to help him on stage and all of them were good sports, one man even singing the entire song, “All by myself” karaoke style! The show was so well thought out and planned but with room for some hilarious improv. Especially at the end when he pulled the 3 fans from the audience dressed like clowns. At the end of them performing together, Puddles suddenly remembers that he is scared of clowns! Genius! 

Hands down one of the best performances I’ve seen in years.

 

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Holiday Fun

Kingsized Holiday Fun! Big Mike is Back at the Variety Playhouse!

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Big Mike Geier and his Kingsized Rock ‘n Roll Orchestra, along with the Dames Aflame Dancers, Lil’ Santa and other special guests, bring tidings of comfort and joy with their signature glitz and glamour in what has become a tinsel-time tradition at the Variety Playhouse. The all-ages 90-minute show features your Holiday favorites by the likes of Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, Andy Williams, Heat Miser, The Grinch and more!

Photo: Emily Butler

We caught up with Big Mike to ask a few questions.

TBB: Big Mike! It’s been a couple years since we had the pleasure of seeing you perform live. We are so excited to be back in Atlanta and we are ready for this show. What can you tell us about this years event?

Big Mike: Welcome back to Atlanta, Ange! We’re also excited to be in town for another wild and wonderful Holiday Jubilee. We like to honor the tradition that the Jubilee has become and don’t mess too much with the format. You can expect the always magnificent sounds of the 12-piece Kingsized Rock ‘n Roll orchestra performing your favorite holiday classics and the dazzling Dames Aflame dancers providing the glamour. The show is all about holiday nostalgia, whatever that means to you: Bing Crosby, Andy Williams, Donnie Hathaway, The Grinch, Rankin Bass, Peanuts, the Dreidel Song? It’s all in there.

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Music Gallery

Turkuaz at Aisle 5

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Brooklyn based funk band Turkuaz played at Aisle Five in Atlanta last week and here are some shots from the show!

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