The streets will be filled with the sounds of music in this year’s 29th Sweet Land of Liberty parade, with its theme “Of Thee I Sing.”
LaGrange College’s Fuller E. Callaway professor of music Lee Johnson has been chosen as the parade’s grand marshal.
“It’s not an honor you don’t receive often, so I’m very amazed,” Johnson said.
Music has always been a major part of Johnson’s life.
“I can’t remember when music wasn’t a part of my life,” he said.
As a child he began taking piano, cello and guitar lessons and started composing at the age of 15. He joined the United States Army band in 1980, where he met his wife Jennifer, who also was in the band.
Johnson moved from Minnesota to LaGrange in 1989 to teach music at the college, a time when the music program was non-existent.
“I’ve been able to be apart of the growth and thriving music department,” Johnson said. “I got to be here when music was rebuilt at LaGrange College after being gone for a quarter of a century.”
Now at age 51, he teaches music composition, song writing, song production and runs the Composition of Music Technology program at the college. His first symphony was in response to a tribute to the life and philanthropy of Fuller E. Callaway Jr. In an initiative to bring attention to LaGrange during the Olympics, he composed a symphony of Sidney Lanier’s poem “Sons of Chattahoochee,” and performed the song for Olympics personnel when they visited the city nearly 20 years ago.
“We’re thriving now that art is a part of civic life,” he said.
Johnson has composed 10 symphonies, with his most successful “Dead Symphony no. 6” being premiered by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and has had coverage on Good Morning America, NPR’s Weekend Edition, The Washington Post, the Washington Times and the Associated Press. He won an Emmy Award in 1991.
His recorded works appear on major music companies including Warner Music Group, Universal Classics, Intersound International and Platinum Entertainment and can be found worldwide on legal download sites.
With plenty under his belt, he is proud to be a part of the parade.
“This is such a wonderful honor,” he said. “This parade is an amazing show of patriotism. I’ve never seen anything like it before.”
Sponsored by Troup County Parks and Recreation, the Sweet Land of Liberty parade will start at 10 a.m. July 4 at Boyd Park and is open for those ages 19 and younger. No adults are allowed in the parade except those designated by the committee. Floats must be made by the participants, although they may have adult supervision. Prizes will be given to the winners.
Participation is free and registration forms are available from Troup County Parks and Recreation.