Dr. James T Johnson Jr., CEO of Pittsburgh’s Afro American Music Institute (AAMI) Inc., graduated from Grambling State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in music education with emphasis on the violin in 1972. He earned his master's degree in 1982 and his PhD in ethnomusicology from the University of Pittsburgh in 1988.

Dr. Johnson travelled the world both as a jazz musician and music educator for over forty-five years.

As a jazz pianist he performed with several internationally and world-renowned jazz artists. He has also been on the part-time faculty of the Community College of Allegheny County, University of Pittsburgh, Carlow University and Duquesne University.

Pamela J Johnson is Co-Founder and Program Director of AAMI and a lead vocalist for AAMI's faculty performance group. She has been the principal vocalist at the ecumenical jazz service at Emmanuel Episcopal Church of Pittsburgh for 30 years. She has performed as a jazz vocalist with such legends as Kenny Clark, Joe Harris, Shirley Scott, Hank Crawford, and Johnny Lytel. Pamela has performed as the primary vocalist of the International Conference on Public Management Policy and Development in Ethiopia, Mozambique, Senegal, Kenya, Ghana and South Africa. She has toured across the U.S. and Canada with the Wright State University Gospel Choir and the Bach Choir of Pittsburgh.  She and her husband have been performing together for over 47 years.


AAMI’S first classes were held at St. James AME Church’s Sumpter Hall in the East Liberty section of Pittsburgh. Within six years, program growth necessitated a move to the Alma Illery Annex, located at 7227 Tioga Street, Homewood. As the reputation of the Institute grew, residents of varied social and economic backgrounds enrolled at AAMI for the opportunity to learn music from an African-American perspective. Again, increased demand for services mandated increased professional teaching and administrative staff and larger accommodations.

On August 15, 2003, AAMI closed the doors at its location at 7227 Tioga Street and moved into its present location at 7131 Hamilton Avenue in Homewood. To celebrate the move, its founders, students, faculty and members of the community at large marched from the old facility to the new.  

AAMI has nurtured thousands of musicians through an educational curriculum designed by Dr. Johnson. Thousands of students have realized their talent through a curriculum that embraces music throughout the African Diaspora. While serving students primarily from African American communities, a wide variety of students from various ethnic groups also attend.  AAMI continues to be a magnet for children and adults who want to explore their love of music and self-expression.