He wised up, and the school grew. By 2003, he had two teachers working for him and moved to a house on the corner of North Main and Summit. By 2008, they'd outgrown that and moved to the upper floor of the Al Nalli Building, on Ashley next to the Fleetwood Diner. Just a year later, they rented the whole place. They now have two dozen teachers and nearly 500 students, "three floors of lessons, eight thousand square feet with fourteen practice rooms, four of which are also band practice rooms. And we just added the Ann Arbor Modern Conservatory in the building next door, where we teach violin, viola, cello, and double bass in all the fundamentals of classical and modern styles, so they can play everything from Mozart to Led Zeppelin!
"I've devoted my life to this," says Johnson, his sincerity as palpable as his cool. "I am a music teacher, and my goal is to teach our students to be musicians in the fullest sense of the word."
School's out by this time, and the center's filling with students, including the five teenagers playing in one of the school's bands--Dave Gissiner and Dan Sagher on guitars, Robert Manor on keyboard, Drew Polovick on bass, and Erez Levin on drums. Short-haired and casually dressed, they look like any other skinny kids until they pick up their instruments in the main practice room and are transformed into cocky little rock gods.