Abilene ISD Superintendent Dr. David Young announced Thursday that Clay Johnson will serve as the district’s new Executive Director of Fine Arts.

Johnson has completed 20 years of service with Abilene ISD and currently serves as the principal at Austin Elementary. He spent his first 16 years in AISD with the Cooper High School band, first as associate director for two years and then as director for 14 years until he moved into campus administration as an assistant principal for Bowie Elementary and Abilene High School. During Johnson’s tenure at CHS, the band won 12 UIL Sweepstakes Awards and 14 CHS students were selected for the TMEA All-State Honor Band.

“Clay is the right person to lead Abilene ISD’s outstanding fine arts programs into the future,” said Young. “He brings a wealth of experience and excellence in education and the arts to this position. I am confident that our fine arts students and staff will continue to have every opportunity to succeed under his leadership.”

Johnson will succeed Jay Lester, who plans to retire as AISD’s top fine arts leader and become the Director of Bands for Hardin-Simmons University in January 2024 after more than 11 years of distinguished service with the district.

“As I reflect on my career in public education as a music teacher and later an arts administrator, I have nothing but positive feelings,” said Lester. “As I transition into college teaching at Hardin-Simmons, my goal is to stay involved in the greater arts community of Abilene, AISD, and Texas. Without hesitation, I welcome Clay Johnson as the new Executive Director of Fine Arts for AISD. His background has prepared him very well for the job and I have no doubt that he will continue the tradition of excellence that AISD fine arts has established over the years.”

In addition to his work for AISD, Johnson has served as an adjunct professor of low brass at McMurry University and as a judge and clinician for UIL marching and concert bands and Region 6 middle school honor bands. His fine arts leadership experience includes chairing the fine arts department at CHS and acting as a fine arts liaison at AHS. He was named CHS Teacher of the Year in 2013.

“I am so thankful for the opportunity to serve Abilene ISD in this role,” Johnson said. “I look forward to promoting our outstanding programs and providing the best opportunities for fine arts students in AISD. Fine arts has been a bright spot in AISD for many years and I am excited to lead this department through its next chapter.”

Johnson earned a bachelor’s degree in music education from the University of Oklahoma, where he served as a drum major for the Pride of Oklahoma Marching Band. He also received his master’s degree in music performance from the University of Michigan and was a graduate assistant for the Michigan Marching Band. He is a member of the Texas Music Educators Association, Texas Bandmasters Association, and Texas Music Adjudicators Association.