Welcome to AAMI
The Afro-American Music Institute (AAMI) began in 1982 as a proprietary venture of founders Dr. James Johnson and his wife, Pamela.
James T. Johnson, Jr., Ph.D.
Dr. James T Johnson Jr., CEO of the Afro American Music Institute, Inc. of Pittsburgh, graduated from Grambling State University in 1972 with a Bachelor of Science degree in music education with emphasis on the violin. He earned his master's degree in 1982 and Ph.D. in 1988 in ethnomusicology from the University of Pittsburgh.
While a student at Grambling State University he performed with the Grambling Symphony Orchestra as well as the Shreveport, Monroe, Ruston, and El Dorado Symphony Orchestras. He also developed the Methodist Student movement Choir for campus students at Grambling State University and served as the state choir director for the Leadership Training School of the C.M.E. Church.
Dr. Johnson has been a world traveled jazz musician and music educator for over forty-five years. His travels in music have taken him across America and to the countries of Belgium, Senegal, Ethiopia, Mozambique, South Africa, Ghana, and Canada. As a jazz pianist he has performed with several internationally and world-renowned jazz artists. Additionally, from 1973 to 1977 he served as the school master for the Lakeside School of Music (Shreveport, Louisiana) and was an assistant professor at Wright State University (Dayton, Ohio) from 1990 to 1994. He has also been on the part-time faculty of the Community College of Allegheny County, University of Pittsburgh, Carlow University and Duquesne University. He has also made national tv appearances in the U.S. on PBS, and BET Television, and one national appearance in Belgium.
The Afro American Music Institute (AAMI) which was founded by Johnson and his wife Pamela, is a Pittsburgh based organization dedicated to promoting the arts. This organization has nurtured thousands of musicians through an educational curriculum designed by Dr. Johnson. AAMI began in 1982 as a propriety venture of Dr. Johnson and his wife and has helped thousands of students realize their talent through a curriculum that embraces music throughout the African Diaspora. While mainly serving students from African American communities, a wide variety of students from various ethnic groups also attend.
Johnson has served in numerous administrative capacities throughout the United States and Africa including: U.S. steering committee for the consortium for international public management, policy and development, serving as the chairman for the arts and cultural division; several arts panels for the state arts council of Pennsylvania; vice president of the 21st century jazz congress; judge monitor for the international song competition for Billboard Magazine; executive committee for music education of the Pittsburgh Gateways/American Arts program; vice president for International Community Management, Inc; on the board of Primary Care Healthcare Services in Pittsburgh PA; board member for the Pittsburgh Jazz Orchestra; Music Director of the Native American Project by Postcommodity, entitled "Hall of Sculpture" which was a redesign of the atrium floor at the Carnegie Museum of Pittsburgh, and vice chairman of the university consortium and college fair division of the gospel music workshop of America.
In 2009, he received the jazz legends award at the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild, leading to the chronicling of his life at the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. In 2012 he co-founded the jazz coalition which is an organization of educators and performers throughout the nation who are concerned with both the performance practice and education of jazz music. Since 1977, Johnson has served as the Minister of Music for several churches of various denominations including Baptist, C.M.E., Episcopal, and AME. churches.
Music is not the only discipline that can be given to Johnson's credit. Since 1969, Johnson has been a part of the world of Martial Arts. He has received belt rankings in the arts of Taekwondo, Wushu, 3rd Movement, Tang Soo Do, and Wing Chun Kung fu. He presently holds a 1st degree black belt in Shotokan karate, and is a master of the Yeta Ryu Martial Arts (7th Degree Black Belt). In June 2017, he was inducted into the Jacquet Bazemore MAASV (Martial Artists Against Street Violence) Hall of Fame in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and the International Columbus Ohio Martial Arts Hall of Fame in October 2023.
Dr. Johnson has received many community, educational and civic awards, both locally and nationally, and maintains a formal relationship as an adjunct at the University of Pittsburgh. He has also taught at Carlow University, Community College of Allegheny County, and Duquesne University. He and his wife Pamela are the proud parents of five children, the grandparents of eight grandchildren and the great grandparents of two great grandchildren.
Mrs. Pamela Johnson
Pamela J Johnson is Co-Founder and Program Director of the Afro American Music Institute (AAMI) and a lead vocalist for AAMI's faculty performance group. She's also been the principal vocalist at the Emmanuel Episcopal Jazz service for 30 years. She and her husband Dr. James Johnson have been performing together for over 47 years.
She has performed as a jazz vocalist with jazz legends such as Kenny Clark, Joe Harris, Shirley Scott, Hank Crawford, and Johnny Lytel. Along with her husband, she has performed as the primary vocalist of the International Conference on Public Management Policy and Development in countries of 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. It was with her Canadian tour with the Bach Choir that led to the production of a CD that was released by the choir, featuring Mrs. Johnson as a soloist. Pamela Johnson can be found singing on first Saturday nights in a musical series called Jazz at the Loading Dock featuring she and her husband, in a nightclub setting at the Music Institute. Additionally, She serves on the board of Pittsburgh's only jazz station (WZUM).
Pamela Johnson was an aerobics instructor for the combined health centers of Primary Healthcare Services from 1985-2001. She also produces a TV show called Pondering with Pamela which can be seen on PCTV Channel 21 in Pittsburgh PA.
Pamela J. Johnson founded the Afro-American Music Institute Boys' Choir in 1990. The group was originally formed to present a musical tribute to fathers on Father's Day. Under the direction of Dr. James T. Johnson Jr, the ensemble has grown into a choir renown for its musical styles and its interpretations of African-American Music such as black art music, blues, gospel, pop, spiritual, and jazz. Today, the choir is an important part of the Afro-American Institute's (AAMI) infrastructure serving as the foundation of the youth laboratory.
Pamela is the proud parent of four children, eight grandchildren, and two great grandchildren.
The 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 sought enrollment 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 newly purchased building at 7131 Hamilton Avenue in Homewood. The facility provides a more inviting location with larger rooms and a more professional appearance and atmosphere as its student enrollment and general public interest increases.
The current location has successfully completed two phases of its Facility Stability Plan. In 2004, several funding agencies including The Eden Hall Foundation and The Pittsburgh Foundation, helped us renovate a rehearsal and performance hall for the Boy’s Choir, AAMI Ensembles, and our annual recitals. We are currently seeking support to complete Phase Three: Building Today For Tomorrow
Consistent with its mission, the Afro-American Music Institute will continue to provide programs of excellence under the guidance and tutelage of its committed, professional staff and board members. It will continue to seek out those persons, especially youth for enrollment and completion of programs and courses offered at AAMI. Our experience indicates that youth who participate in AAMI programs gain a better sense of self-confidence, self-esteem, creativity and problem solving skills.
The academic piece of this dream was realized via a doctoral dissertation in ethnomusicology entitled “Enculturation in a Formal Setting: A Study of Problems and Prospects in Afro-American Music Education”. Unlike Langston Hughes’ “ A Dream Deferred”, this dream is alive and well as evidenced via a curriculum that provides specialized instrumental and vocal training in all styles of African-American music, (i.e. gospel, Negro spirituals, jazz, etc.).
Current programs at AAMI are divided into four categories:
Summer Youth Intensive Camp
Public Performance Series