Band Director Steve Johnson Plays with Big Mouth, Popular Local Band


Ellen Meeuwsen, Staff Writer, Journalism I

From jazz and R&B to hip hop or country, when it comes to music genres, Mr. Steve Johnson, Notre Dame Academy band teacher, says, “ I’m tempted to say I play all of them. That’s not accurate, but it’s pretty close.”

Johnson plays in a popular local band called Big Mouth where they play mostly jazz, originals and hip-hop tunes. 

The band is comprised of former or current music educators, so “the level of musicianship is very, very high.” Three-fourths of the band members have degrees in music, and several members have their master’s degrees. 

Originally, in his early 20s, Johnson was a sub for the group. For many years playing music was how he made a living, and “when you’re making a living playing, you don’t turn down any gigs,” so he knew his answer right away when he was approached with the offer to sub. 

Three years ago, Johnson was asked to become a full-time member of the band to play the saxophone. He gladly accepted because at that time he knew the members well and enjoyed playing with them. 

Big Mouth has busy summers with performances three to four times a week. During their off season, which usually occurs during the winter or spring months, the band rehearses new material or old songs they may not have performed for awhile. 

Big Mouth has around 200 songs in its repertoire. Many of the band members contribute to writing original songs for the group to perform. 

Johson is a professional woodwind player, which includes all clarinets, flutes and saxophone instruments. You may have previously heard him play locally with a touring musical or popular musician. 

The NDA band director plays in so many different venues in so many different circumstances that when it comes to his most memorable performance, he has had “a lot and it’s hard to pick just one.” 

Some notable performances include playing in front of 10 or 20,000 people and the band’s tribute to Miles Davis and Gil Evans, whom Johnson has always admired. 

You can see and hear Johnson perform with Big Mouth October 5 at the Door County Auditorium with Woody Mankowski at 7 p.m.  They will sing Ray Charles and some original music.