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.
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
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.