"A hurricane on sticks!"
- The Los Angeles Times
"Captivating technique and creativity"
- Modern Drummer Magazine
"He plays his ding-dong off"
- Musician/Actor/Comedian, steve allen
- DC Metro Theater Arts
Matt Johnson, proclaimed “a hurricane on sticks!” (Los Angeles Times), is considered one of the West Coast’s most versatile drummers.
Noted for his jazz stylings, Johnson is equally versed in all forms of pop drumming and has performed with a range of entertainers, from singers Julie Andrews and Andy Williams to Surf-rock pioneers Jan and Dean and big band legends Billy May and Les Brown. His extensive list of credits includes radio and television “jingles,” TV and film soundtracks, jazz recordings as a sideman and leader, as well as countless live-performances on national and international stages. Johnson is the driving force behind the Atomic-Age lounge ensemble Jet Set Quintet and the contemporary organ trio 2+1B3. He also currently tours with Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning actress/comedienne Jane Lynch (Glee, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Best in Show) and singer/actor/American icon, James Darren.
Hailed by Modern Drummer Magazine for his “captivating technique and creativity," Johnson is noted for talents that extend beyond performing as well. He is also a gifted teacher who, since 1993, has worked to inspire the next generation of young drummers as part of the music faculty of Fullerton College and the Idyllwild Arts Academy’s Summer Jazz Camp. In 2011, he oversaw the installation of an all-digital drum-set lab at Fullerton College, only the second one of its kind in the nation. Under his direction, it was further expanded in 2014 to become the largest in the country. One student’s recent entry on Ratemyprofessors.com said of Professor Johnson, “Discipline and control dominate his playing and teaching . . . personality and charisma bring students back again and again.”
That same personality and charisma has helped to make Johnson an in-demand guest speaker at numerous music educator conventions. He has presented his popular performance/lectures So Many Drummers, So Little Time and What to Play When the Drum Chart Says “Latin” for annual gatherings of the California All-State Music Educators Convention, Arizona Music Educators Association and the Southern California School Band and Orchestra Association, among others. He is further involved in the music education community as creative consultant to Forum Music Festivals – a company committed to producing positive performance and music education experiences for young musicians.
Johnson is an artist/clinician for Mapex Drums, Paiste Cymbals, Aquarian Drumheads, Roland US and currently serves as Industry Representative for the California Alliance for Jazz, the state’s preeminent organization for the promotion of jazz and jazz education.
The Early Years
Johnson, a veteran of the Velvet Knights Drum and Bugle Corps (1969-73 and 1977), was a full-time staff musician at Disneyland USA from 1979 to 1990. Since 1986, he has been part of a number of exceptionally creative music ensembles, including the critically acclaimed Palm Springs Yacht Club, a musical comedy quartet delivering hot jazz from the 1920s and 1930s. In collaboration with renowned composer/arranger Tom Kubis, he co-created the nine-piece early-jazz show band, Swing Savant, described by the Los Angeles Times as “the Casa Loma Orchestra on acid.”