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Saturday September 23, 2017
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The King of Cool



manager, her feathered black hair touched with blonde. Slim and fit, they look like rock royalty--which, for the students who come here to learn how to rock out, they arguably are.

An Ann Arbor native, Johnson grew up with the music. "I was born here in sixty-eight, and I remember playing volleyball with the MC5 in West Park as a little kid. I went to Tappan and Commie High, and in high school I was in Third Rail, a hippie metal hybrid, then I was in a band called Juice. I worked as an engineer at Big Sky and Solid Sound studios and as a studio musician, and in TV, and film, and commercials. But teaching was always something I did, sometimes as my primary source of income, sometimes just as a sideline."

He can recall distinctly the moment he recognized music was his destiny. "I had been working in computer sales, and when the dot-com bubble popped, a lot of my clients were folding. I remember I opened my computer one morning, and I realized that I only had two clients left. At that point I started the Music Center with absolutely no plan whatsoever."

The first years were rough. "I started it in November ninety-nine in the Technology Center over on Washington, where the new Y is now, in an eleven-by-eleven room with a drum set, guitar, amp, and two folding chairs. But the Technology Center was a terrible place to be. Kids would have to step over passed-out drunks to get to lessons! I finally realized how bad it was when somebody kicked in my door and stole all my stuff."

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