Valley Arts Award winner Brian Johnston has worked tirelessly for more than four decades to foster music in the Annapolis Valley.
He received his award on Sunday afternoon, Sept. 30, at the final Deep Roots Music Festival concert.
Johnston was the music teacher at Windsor Regional High School from 1973 until 1997, and taught summers at Acadia University for many years.
Johnston has been busy performing and leading popular bands such as the Centennial Dixieland Jazz Band, Punch, the Newfie Bullet, and Taxi.
Since retiring, he has remained active as a musician and educator. The local high school maintains a music bursary in his name.
Currently, he conducts a group of alumni and community members called the Big Valley Swing Orchestra, which, while performing at the Halifax Jazz Festival and regionally, has developed a reputation as one of the best dance bands on the East Coast. He also conducts a small group of adult musicians called Buckley's Mixture, all amateur musicians learning to play jazz.
“I would probably not be playing the saxophone or jazz music at all if it were not for Brian,” says saxophonist Mike Murley, one of Canada’s pre-eminent jazz musicians. Saxophonist David Parker, who along with Murley, established the well-known band The Shuffle Demons in the early 1980s, recalled that Johnston nurtured an amazing enthusiasm for playing music.
Greg Simm, another classmate of Murley and Parker’s and a busy guitar player, put it simply: “Brian’s work as a teacher is felt all across the music scene in Canada today.”