Solo or part of a troupe, onstage or behind the scenes, paid or volunteer, each of the five 2010 Heart of the Arts Award nominees gives 100 percent to the bright and varied world of arts and entertainment in Broome County. All this week BAMirror will be providing biographical background about the nominees. We’re also offering you an opportunity to congratulate the nominees and to share a story or two. Today we feature DJ and children’s entertainer Johnny Only.
NOTE TO BCAC MEMBERS: Your HOTA Ballot must be in by 5 p.m. Sept. 7. The three HOTA award recipients and this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award honoree will be announced on Oct. 1. They will receive their awards during the Heart of the Arts Awards Celebration Oct. 8 in the Recital Hall of The Forum in Binghamton.
Johnny Only, children’s entertainer and educator
Born and raised on a large working dairy farm located near the Broome County Airport, the future “Johnny Only,” the youngest of three children, enjoyed entertaining his family with his music. Jonathan Wright progressed from youthful violin lessons and the elementary school orchestra to guitar in high school and college, starting his first rock ’n’ roll band with some Johnson City High School classmates while on summer vacation from college.
Although the farm boy began with agricultural studies at SUNY-Morrisville, he switched to electronics for an AAS degree. Electronics also lost out to that first love, music; he joined, started and quit 14 bands in eight years. Ultimately, though, Wright quit the live music business and spent about 15 years as a fulltime mobile DJ.
Playing other people’s recordings, the man known professionally as Johnny Only (a nickname from his solo live act days) gained a reputation for filling up the dance floors by knowing exactly what to play for adults and school-age children. Then about five years ago, he was hired for his first pre-school dance and realized that his usual DJ format wouldn’t work with tykes. “The only thing that seemed to work was me getting out there with the kids and performing myself. So, when that pre-school hired me back, I dusted off my guitar and brought it with me. The reception I received from both children and adults was far beyond my wildest expectations.”
Along the way, Johnny Only, who now has a weekly Highland Park gig for preschoolers, learned that children don’t come to dance; they come to play — and to be part of the show. Accordingly, he calls his following a “play group” and his program a “play date,” not a performance.
“We have some beliefs in our play group,” he said. “We believe in making music that is fun and developmentally appropriate. We believe in songs that make it easy for parents and children to dance together. We believe in choreography that is as good for your mind and emotions as it is for your body. We are on a mission to help build playful family environments through uplifting lyrics and rhythms. We are asking you to help us to spread the word by singing along with your kids.”
If you wish to offer your congratulations or tell your best Johnny Only story, please comment here.