Cy Falls graduate to entertain at Olympic's opening ceremony
By Jesse Sandejas, Houston Chronicle

Like many Americans, Jared Johnson is excited about the approaching Winter Olympic Games.

"As a kid, I remember writing down all the Olympic winners and feeling a special spirit when the national anthem was played for a gold medal winner," Johnson said. "I can't wait to watch the Salt Lake Games and cheer on the home team.

"I have always taken pride in the U.S. teams, but this will likely be the Games I remember most because of my personal involvement."

The 23-year-old Johnson, a 1996 graduate of Cypress Falls High School, won't be attempting triple axels or manning a bobsled this month, but he'll usher in moments like those as one of 15 musicians invited to perform at the Governor's Olympic Opening Ceremony Reception on Friday in Salt Lake City.

A contemporary pianist and songwriter, Johnson was selected to perform from a field of more than 500 musicians.

The event will draw political leaders from countries participating in the 2002 Winter Games and President Bush is the keynote speaker.

So how did a former Copperfield resident now residing in Provo, Utah, earn such an honor?

"Ralph Johnson, president of Meetings America, was recruited to find entertainment for the reception," he said. "In mid-November, he e-mailed me to introduce the event and invite me to perform.

"After I called to confirm, I discovered that Ralph found my Web site on a link from, a local music directory. He listened to a few samples on my site and said it was the exact sound he wanted."

Johnson said his sound is influenced by Utah pianist Jon Schmidt and Jim Brickman. Harry Connick Jr., Billy Joel and Bruce Hornsby are other influences, he said.

Listeners can sample his music via downloads from his Web site, Two CDs he's recorded, Piano Pop and Before Tomorrow, are available for purchase from the site.

While pursuing a public relations degree at Brigham Young University, Johnson has performed Utah-area concerts and developed a loyal following.

So, he said, he'll be undaunted playing to global dignitaries. He said his development as a musician in Cy-Fair has helped him build a stage presence.

"I was very involved with the Cy Falls band. It was basically life during high school," said Johnson, noting he played drums in the school's marching band and was co-drum captain his senior year. "I learned how to discipline myself and work toward team goals.

"The Cy Falls band won a national competition one year that earned us a trip to Atlanta. We also participated regularly in contests like UIL that demanded concentration and performing infront of hundreds of people. You could say I learned how to be less nervous on stage."

At the reception, Johnson will perform "Mountain Dreams," an original piece he wrote for the occasion. He plans to make the song downloadable from his Web site following the event.

"While writing the piece, I pictured Olympic events in my mind and curved the notes around the action like a soundtrack. I thought about what kind of music would fit if I were watching a video of Olympic performances. My intent was to match the spirit, emotion, and reverence of the Games."

Johnson said this performance will expand the mission of his music, which is to offer the world a positive alternative to immoral music.

"Hopefully, my music can calm people and offer them hope in times when the world is in turmoil," Johnson said. "I think the most exciting aspect (of the reception performance) is feeling like a part of the Games, which is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

"Athletes can share their passion through the sport of the Olympics, but I get to share mine through my music."