Instrumental Director Announces Retirement

If you have spent at least 1 class with band and orchestra teacher Johnny Johnson, you will become familiar with a specific Mark Batterson quote: “The shortest pencil is longer than the longest memory.”

Fueled by decades of musical and teaching experience, Johnson dedicated 10 years to the cultivation of the Campolindo music department, taking the struggling program under his wing. And, after months of contemplation, Johnson will be retiring at the end of the 2022 academic year, graduating with his current senior class, and leaving behind a legacy of musical excellence.

“It’s been a distinct joy to serve the Campolindo High School community of students, parents, teachers, and administrators. Few places offer greater support for the arts than the extraordinary town of Moraga. I can’t imagine a better environment in which to have spent the final 10 years of my career. From the bottom of my heart, thank you all. Over the next few months, I’ll be savoring this experience with the knowledge that it is rare and I am 1 of the few to have enjoyed it,” Johnson wrote in his email, alerting students and parents of his decision.

Past students of Johnson fondly remember the lessons they had with him. “In my freshman year, [Johnson] had us watch all of Carmen in preparation for playing the piece, and during all the inappropriate parts, he would stand in front of the screen,” said former student and alumni Gyamfiah Boateng.

Alumni Santi Milano recalls the trip to New Orleans the Campo jazz band took. “Me and some other guys were messing around in the entrance to the hotel, kicking around a soccer ball, making a tunnel with our arms for other guests to pass through. And Mr. Johnson came down, with a big smile, to join in on the fun! Although this was a small moment, I loved seeing him so happy and alive in his home state, and I especially love reflecting on it now that he’s going back. 1 of the best kept secrets of Campolindo is that Mr. Johnson is actually a classic southern gentleman. I’ll miss him a lot though.”

Choral director Mark Roberts recognizes the impact Johnson has had on the Campolindo music department. “There are essentially 2 tiers of music programs in high schools: 1 that fundamentally fosters music education and appreciation and another that goes beyond that to foster an aspiration for a professional level of experience while not compromising aspects of the first tier or alienating students who have less ability or experience. He is conscientious, and precise in choosing repertoire to support this vision and an event calendar to promote these values. His skills in a diverse range of job requirements are astonishing. To find a conductor who is comfortable with winds, or strings alone can be a challenge and he goes beyond that with a deep knowledge of jazz and music theory.”

Students and colleagues alike will miss Johnson in the following years. “As a colleague and friend he is uniquely kind and thoughtful. He spends time getting to know people and their passions. While a natural introvert, his Southern charm and compassion endears him to all his peers and colleagues. As a friend, he has counseled me many times on music, teaching, and life. While I cannot imagine not having him here as a colleague, I will miss him more as a friend and sounding board for my various challenges,” said Roberts.

“I remember in sophomore year [Johnson] once asked me if I’d keep playing bassoon in college, I said ‘yes probably,’ and he asked if I’d be majoring in bassoon performance, because he thought I had the skill to pursue that—which at the time was not the plan, but that’s because I had never considered that as a real possibility for me, and having someone kinda just assure me of my own skill and encourage me was really nice. That’s what ended up convincing me to actually pursue what I loved to do, when before I didn’t let myself because I thought I wasn’t good enough to succeed,” said senior Soumili Mukherjee.

So what made Johnson decide to retire?

“The answer is a convergence of factors relating to family, career, and general well-being, the most significant of which is a desire to be near my parents in the coming years, offering them the support and care they deserve,” wrote Johnson.

In his retirement, Johnson’s short term plans include starting a garden, adopting a couple dogs, and traveling. “I’m open to finding a gig or 2 that will allow me to continue teaching or performing music. Like most retirees, I want to have fun and relax, but also be useful and keep giving back to the world in a positive way,” said Johnson. “I’ve been very lucky to have had great colleagues and friends who I love, value, and can’t thank enough — administrators, professors, fellow faculty members, music teachers from surrounding schools, and random people along the way who’ve given great advice or just lent me their ear at the right time. I’m most grateful to Mark Roberts who has been a dear friend and colleague and sounding board for all of these years.”

Johnson has made a difference, both in Campolindo’s music department and individual lives. Through his teaching, students have found their passions and communities. His students and colleagues, past and present, will eternally be grateful.

“..1 of my goals in writing this is to illuminate all the various aspects that perhaps no one sees if they just come to a concert and appreciate the beautiful music. None of that just happens, it’s not luck, nor is it the easy toss away line when it comes to artists: talent. It is the result of very careful planning, intensely hard work, long hours, and many unseen sacrifices on the part of Mr. I Johnson as a teacher and person,” emphasized Roberts. “Teachers are drastically underappreciated. Mr. Johnson puts in so much time that students and parents have no idea are part of the process. Those hours are realized in small details that are hard to see but easy to recognize when they are gone. I hope we all can truly honor the remarkable gift that has been the pleasure of our time with Mr. Johnson.”

“I’m taking many great memories with me as I leave, but I hope that I am also leaving great memories with the students who have come through the program. As I said in my farewell letter, my experiences here were not mine alone. They were shared by the students who experienced those moments with me, and our shared memories have formed a lifelong bond between us. Wherever we go, wherever we end up, together or apart, we have shared a portion of our lives together that can never be erased,” said Johnson.

Like the mark of the pencil he so often reminds his students about, Johnson’s mark on Campolindo’s music department will last.