“Known to many simply as "Prof", Conrad Johnson is perhaps the most widely recognized and beloved music educator in Houston. Highly respected as a versatile, passionate saxophonist and leader of the band, Conrad Johnson and His Orchestra, the diminutive octogenarian has for over 50 years been a major force in shaping the Houston sound, a rich synthesis of the seemingly antithetical elements of down-home Texas blues and sophisticated jazz,” according to Roger Ward Living Blues Magazine.

Reflecting on his career, Prof is proud of his accomplishments as a teacher and father, roles he values more than his own reputation as a performer. "...see, I had a chance to go on the road, but I didn't. A couple of bands (including the Erskine Hawkins Orchestra) came by and tried to get me to go (on the road), but I was teaching. And I had a family--four children and a wife--and I didn't feel like leaving them," said Johnson. Of this, former pop music critic for the Houston Chronicle, Rick Mitchell, said, "Conrad Johnson is one of Houston's unsung cultural heroes. He could have made a national name for himself with his two big bands; instead he chose to devote his career to educating Houston's future musicians. He retired from the school system, but he's still hard at work as an educator."

After first attending Houston College for Negroes and later graduating from Wylie College in the east Texas town of Marshall, Johnson began teaching in public schools in 1941. His 37 years of classroom service were highlighted by a distinguished tenure as director of the Kashmere High School Stage Band, which won 42 out of 46 contests entered between 1969 and 1977, recorded eight albums featuring more than 20 original compositions by Johnson and traveled throughout Europe, Japan and the United States.

Johnson mentions local forerunners with deep respect, such as teachers and musicians Abner Jones and Anderson Lacy. But he also has great hope for those who will come after him--especially the fortunate Houston school children he still reaches each year in summer workshops and his private tutoring in his home. Feeling the need to continue to reach out to children, Mr. Johnson co-founded the successful Summer Jazz Workshop, which has provided intensive music training for 29 years. This workshop continues to serve hundreds of our youth each year by providing a hands-on experience with world-renowned artists, many of whom are students of Mr. Johnson.
“Prof” still needed to do more; thus, the Conrad Johnson Music & Fine Arts Foundation was created. Its mission is to develop, preserve, and support music and the arts, through educational and scholarship opportunities and by promoting jazz studies for youth throughout the Houston/Gulf Coast area. Paul Berlin, KSEV Supertalk Radio 700 AM, renowned radio personality states, "jazz was born in America, nurtured in America and we cannot let it die in America. Therefore, I don't know anyone in Houston with the musical qualifications of Conrad Johnson that would be more perfect to lead a foundation for the preservation of jazz." Jerome Gray, anchor for KHOU TV 11 also states, "Conrad Johnson is truly a Houston treasure. Young jazz lovers need to take advantage of his knowledge in their quest to learn and love music." "You'd be surprised at the discipline and the maturity that we've got in these kids,” Johnson beams. "They come out of all kinds of programs, and when they go back they've become leaders. They are taught writing, composing, arranging, playing in the big band, in the combos--as well as the history of jazz and the blues." In addition to the music, the students are taught life skills--such as how to survive successfully in this world. For this is more than a program on music; it is a program about reaching our children, about helping them to become successful and productive citizens.

Adding to Mr. Johnson’s accomplishments was his induction into the Phi Beta Mu/Texas Bandmasters Association Hall of Fame. This event, which honors only retired, accomplished, band directors, was held on July 24, 2000.