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I want  my music to be a language and then surprise everyone with what I have to say -rusty johnson

"Rusty’s got great instincts as a player and acute ability to read a crowd and deliver exactly what is needed. He’s got the chops for sure, but it’s what comes from his heart that really seems to connect."

Dave Koz, Grammy nominated platinum-selling saxophonist 

"Rusty Johnson is a musician's delight!  His authentic open sound is filled with musicianship and personality. Technically, he uses superb sensibility in his performance to compliment the most challenging venues.  When Rusty plays, you realize you are hearing greatness in the making.  Whether performing as a soloist or an accompaniment, Rusty displays well-honed taste and acumen, while simultaneously arousing the soul.  I have enjoyed his musical flair while performing and listening.  You will too! "

Marvin Matthews, multi-recording/dvd artist, Bill & Gloria Gaither featured vocalist, and internationally touring Christian sensation.

"Rusty Johnson mesmerizes his audiences with his unique style and flair of music, infectious to everyone with an ear for great SAX!!! Rusty is truly one of the nation's best kept secrets…but not for long!"

Lynn Briggs, radio personality, and Las Vegas' the Oasis, 105.7 musical director. 

"The only thing more impressive than Rusty's ability to play sax is his heart for those in need."

Steven Curtis Chapman, 40+ Dove Awards, 5 Grammys, over 10 million total albums sold and 41 #1 radio hits, Christian artist 


While most know of Rusty Johnson as a musician, his music is only part of the story…


As a product of the foster care system, Rusty had the odds stacked against him.  Maybe it was the small “village” of Oskaloosa, Iowa who helped raised him, or maybe it was the many foster parents and community members who impacted his life, or perhaps it was the saxophone or music …but whatever it was, Rusty Johnson has defied those odds. 


In fourth grade, Rusty was moved into foster care. It didn’t take long for him to do everything in his power to upset the lives of most all who were trying to help him.  Over the next two years and through hospitalizations, temporary foster homes and attempts at reunification with his biological home, Rusty rebelled and he did so very well.


Shortly before Rusty was to begin his 6th grade year, the Department of Human Services was in a desperate search for a family willing to take on a young, troubled pre-adolescent teen.  Rusty was also greatly struggling in school, often getting in physical altercations with students, bullying and be bullied and even terrorizing teachers.  Rusty’s social worker found Ms. Carolyn Brickley, an elementary music teacher who lived in a small town of about 1,200 people.  Ms. Brickley agreed to take Rusty as a foster child, but only for a short time until a more permanent living situation could be found.  A lot was changing for Rusty and a lot more was about to come.    


It was also during this time that Rusty had caseworker-supervised visits between himself, his biological mother and three sisters.  It was during one of these visits that his mother gave him a saxophone, which was the same saxophone his eldest sister played in school.  What Rusty didn’t realize was his mother had already called Ms. Brickley (his foster mother and elementary music teacher) and asked if she would be willing to provide Rusty with music lessons.  Upon receiving the saxophone an agreement was made, or perhaps more appropriately, a strong suggestion was made by his mother; that Rusty would become Kenny G.


Rusty lost his hero and mother January 24, 1994 when he was in the 7th grade.  Devastated and confused, Rusty took to his saxophone.  But with such a loss, Rusty also acted out and rebelled making what all thought was a promising future into a grim future.  In addition to the stress of losing his mother, Rusty was also battling what seemed like a never-ending series hospital visits, surgeries, pain and medical uncertainty.


Shortly before the death of Rusty’s mother, he had two major operations which discovered a huge blood vessel mass that was wrapping around his chest which was growing rapidly.  The best doctors in the United States were certain Rusty would die without an operation or intervention, however Rusty could not be operated on because the mass was so large he would likely die on the operating table.  It was by chance and doctors around the country working in tangent that a new procedure was found, a procedure that would save Rusty’s life.  Over Rusty’s middle and high school years he would board a plane once a month and fly to Denver, Colorado to have these life-saving operations.  To this day, Rusty has had more than 30 operations. 


Continuing through homes, institutions, and hospitals Rusty never left the final gift his mother gave him, the saxophone.  After graduating with congressional honors from Central College, in Pella, Iowa, Rusty pursued his Master’s Degree at University of North Texas.  Since, his musical adventures have taken him to places, like:  Romania, Germany, throughout the Yucatan Peninsula, Canada, China, and coast-to-coast throughout the United States.  In addition to headlining his own shows, he has shared the stage, recorded, or appeared as the opening act for artists, such as:  5-time Grammy Award-winning and 56 Dove Award-winning Steven Curtis Chapman, Chart-topping Nikki Leonti, world-famous trombonist John Fedchock, Gaither-recording and world-touring Marvin Matthews, recording sensation percussionist Alex Acuna, legendary pianist Buddy Shanahan, and 3-time Oscar and Grammy-winner Joe Hogue, and many more.  Rusty has appeared on talk shows, interviews, and has been reviewed on ABC, CBS, NBC, and NPR radio and television, and has been the feature of newspaper stories from Dallas to Shanghai.


Rusty Johnson has used his personal story and journey through foster care to reach thousands throughout the United States.  In 2006, Rusty combined his music and advocacy to create the first “Rusty Johnson’s American Dreams” tour, which is still going strong and has raised thousands of dollars for current foster youth in States across the United States. Rusty travels as a featured keynote speaker and trainer with a focus on foster care.  Rusty has developed curricula which are currently being used to train foster/adoptive parents throughout the United States. His child welfare advocacy has received national recognition, positions, and awards, such as:  Head-Congressional Intern on Capitol Hill, the Central College TRIO Achiever, Congressional State of Iowa Certificate of Recognition, the El Paso CARE Coalition Achievement Award, the Texas DFPS Commissioner’s Note on Personal Achievement, the Iowa State Executive Department Award, the 2011 Central College Young Alumni Lifetime Achievement Award, and in 2009-2012 he was named as the Child Abuse Prevention Celebrity by the Dallas Child Abuse Prevention (CAP) Center.


Rusty recently moved back to his home state of Iowa after a successful music and advocacy career in Southern California.  To sign-up for Rusty’s newsletter, view his performances, tours, and be the first to know about the release of his much anticipated debut album and book, please sign up for the newsletter!



Rusty Johnson's American Dreams 2006
Rusty Johnson's American Dreams 2006
Rusty Johnson, Amazing Grace
Rusty Johnson, Spaghettini's 
Rusty Johnson, Barclay Theatre, LA County 
American Dreams


“Rusty Johnson’s American Dreams” was founded with a small monetary donation from Rusty’s hometown Quaker church. These funds were given with the intention of helping other foster youth develop and achieve a dream that otherwise could not be attained. The church congregation gave these funds to Rusty, knowing that he would use these funds to help others achieve their dreams, just as the church had helped him. Three states later, Rusty Johnson’s American Dreams has raised thousands of dollars to benefit local organizations to support foster youth in music, dance, sports, theater and more! Rusty and well-known artists join on stage for a full-scale concert where 100% of ticket sales go to benefit a local organization.  In addition, there is a silent auction to raise additional funds, a child welfare festival/conference, foster/youth group trainings, community/state award presentation, and a press tour where Rusty joins forces with others to raise awareness and educate local communities regarding the needs of their at-risk/foster youth community.

Rusty Johnson American Dreams CALIFORNIA 2014 Promo 

Speaking & Training

Rusty Johnson has a unique experience and has often been told he also has a "unique take on things".  Over the past decade, Rusty has addressed audiences of all varieties and sizes and held trainings coast-to-coast.  Rave reviews have been given from Rusty's educational and inspirational keynotes to community organizations, foster parents and foster youth & alumni.  He is second to none    -Dallas CASA   

As a trainer, Rusty is second to none.  He is knowledgeable, candid, motivational, approachable, inspirational and passionate.  For us, it was some of his kinesthetic learning tactics that proved especially poignant and led to quite a few monumental "ah hah" moments, as Oprah would say.  -Sara Schildknecht & Tanya Pierce, foster parent/trainees

Rusty does training with an innovative approach ...he brought a fresh approach and an unmatched enthusiasm we had not yet seen ...I was a trainer for a major hotel chain and have attended many "Train the Trainer" sessions and can spot not only a good trainer, but someone who identifies the needs of their trainees and tailors the training to fit that person.  I found that in Rusty."  -Shelly Rogers, foster/adoptive parent and advocate.

Rusty was the best of all tonight.  I did not want to be here tonight.  Now I am so glad I did.  Rusty talked to me, so I can understand.  I can't wait to go to my foster home tonight and start my new path ...I never thought of being in foster homes as something good, but I can make something of it and use it to be better.  -Dayvon, 15 year old foster child

Rusty has "walked a mile in their shoes" and uses this unique perspective to give keynotes, train and speak coast-to-coast. In almost every speech, Rusty emphasizes the importance of at-risk youth finding their voice, nurturing their talents and dreams.  In some of Rusty's keynotes and speeches he will combine speaking with his music, actually demonstrating the importance of following or creating a safe place for dreams to grow.  He has developed multiple curricula, including state-approved lessons taught throughout the United States.  Rusty specializes in speaking to current and former foster youth, addressing and educating communities on the needs of at-risk youth and training/speaking to foster/adoptive parents and welfare workers on topics, such as:  behavior intervention, new foster/adoptive parent training, crisis management, and. LGBTQ foster youth.        


To book or inquire about Rusty Johnson speaking to, or working with your next event, contact us.

The Rusty Johnson Studio

Des Moines, Iowa

First and foremost, thank you for looking into music lessons!  Our studio offers a comprehensive approach to music, meaning the student receives they need to succeed, but also lots of other information about music.  Each student/family signs a "practice agreement".  Students are required to practice 30-minutes a day, 6 days a week.  Students learn how to structure their practice sessions, which is tailored to the student, individual needs and schedule.  Students enrolled in the Rusty Johnson Studio are given unique opportunities, such as:  studying under adjunct/guest instructors, performing in recitals, access to a minimal/free instrument loan program, attending performances of professionals and having a personal advocate to be a liaison between the student and the school/band/community/resources.
Although the studio enrollment/lesson fee is less than many private professional instructors charge, this is not a reflection of the quality of instruction students receive.  Our studio mission is to make individual music instruction accessible.                 

All lessons are offered on-site at Rusty Johnson's Music Studio.  Availability is limited.

Please contact us to find out about availability.



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INFO & Booking | 


Jennifer Martinez, Agent/Manager

(909) 268-9563


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