New York, October 16, 2017 – The American Academy of Arts and Letters has awarded its 2017 Presidential Citation to Graham Johnson, a music teacher at Washington Heights Expeditionary Learning School (WHEELS) in Manhattan. The Presidential Citation, which acknowledges achievement in the nurturing of the arts at a New York City public school, is accompanied by an honorarium of $10,000. It will be awarded to Mr. Johnson at the Academy on November 9, 2017. Yehudi Wyner, president of the Academy, stated, “As a fellow musician I am thrilled to learn of Mr. Johnson’s work with our young people and pleased to be able to honor him with this recognition.”
Photo credit: David Flores
GRAHAM JOHNSON has taught elementary, middle, and high school band and general music classes, as well as special education, for nearly ten years. He has been teaching at WHEELS for eight years, where he currently leads the expansion of the music program as the school grows to include Pre-K through 12th grade. He plays piano with jazz groups in New York City and has studied with top musicians in the Latin music scene. Mr. Johnson studied music theory and jazz piano at Oberlin College and received an M.S. in Education from City College.
The American Academy of Arts and Letters was founded in 1898 as an honor society of the country’s leading architects, artists, composers, and writers. Founding members include William Merritt Chase, Kenyon Cox, Daniel Chester French, Childe Hassam, Henry James, Theodore Roosevelt, Elihu Vedder, and Woodrow Wilson. In addition to electing new members as vacancies occur, the Academy seeks to “foster and sustain an interest in Literature, Music, and the Fine Arts” by administering over 70 awards and prizes, exhibiting art and manuscripts, funding performances of new works of musical theater, and purchasing artwork for donation to museums across the country. The organization is located in three landmark buildings, designed by McKim, Mead & White, Cass Gilbert, and Charles Pratt Huntington, on Audubon Terrace at 155 Street and Broadway.