MNPS Voices: Johnny Croft

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Johnny Croft, Band Director, Cane Ridge High School
Posted on 09/30/2021
Johnny Croft
Johnny Croft, Cane Ridge High School’s band director, is in his 18th year doing work for Metro Nashville Public Schools that he describes as his “ministry.”

The award-winning band director’s career began in 2004 at Haynes Middle School, where Croft quickly caught the eye of the visual and performing arts coordinator, who recommended he should consider a position leading a high school band. Johnny Croft, Cane Ridge band

Croft then accepted the band director position at Stratford High School. This was a challenge, because the band roster at the time consisted of only 13 students, and 10 of them were drummers.

Croft’s teaching reputation made a big difference in his recruiting efforts. Students at MNPS high schools that don’t have a marching band can participate at a school that has one, and students at Nashville School of the Arts and Nashville Big Picture High School who remembered Croft from Haynes or knew his reputation quickly signed up. The band roster tripled to more than 40 students by the end of the year.

Croft gives credit to a mentor for teaching him how to recruit.

“I win recruits by being visual. We showcase the band during pep rallies, and we play at lunches,” he said. “We also play the music kids want to hear - their hip-hop streaming favorites.”

Stratford High School’s band played for Nashville’s mayor and was frequently requested by Metro Nashville government to play for visiting dignitaries. Croft witnessed the school culture change at Stratford and credits it to the band.

In 2015, Cane Ridge High School was fortunate to gain Croft as their new band director. They are currently experiencing a change in their school culture as well, with students enjoying more opportunities and more responsibility, too, as Croft has helped them raise the quality of the band’s performances.

Croft’s commitment led him to implement a band leadership team of 20 students at Cane Ridge. He empowers his students with all the non-teaching responsibilities of running a high school band.

Jada Croft is a ninth-grader and piccolo player at Cane Ridge and is also a member of her dad’s band. She is proud to overhear the faculty talk about her dad’s dedication to his students and his passion for the band.

Johnny Croft, a native of Detroit’s inner city, often tells his students that music saved his life.

“The neighborhood I grew up in was rough. But being a part of my school’s band kept me from being a part of gangs,” he said. “My high school band traveled to places that exposed me to colleges and national landmarks outside of my neighborhood. That changed me.”

Croft’s goal is to be that change for his students.

“Teaching doesn’t feel like a job. This is my ministry,” he said. “As long as you put the students first, you never make a bad decision.”
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