Impact for Life: Our Conversation with Greg and Diane Johnson

We recently had the pleasure of sitting down with our Ambassadors of Music state coordinators for Oklahoma, Greg and Diane Johnson.

These two veteran educators took their first Ambassadors trip in 1999. Since then, they’ve led twelve Ambassadors trips and had the incredible opportunity to share the experience with both of their sons.

Greg and Diane have watched countless students’ lives change because of their Ambassadors experience and generously shared the impact they’ve observed with our team. 

Tell us about your personal experience as parents of two Ambassadors participants.

When we started with Ambassadors in 1999, we would take off and our relatives would take care of the boys for us while we were gone. We’d always come back with souvenirs and share stories about the trip. Our boys were highly anticipating the opportunity to go, but we wanted them to be old enough to where they could actually be participants within the program and not mom and dad’s kid tagging along. 

For our older son’s first trip in 2005, he had a tight group of friends and none of them were going on the trip. He was all excited to go, but the closer it got, he was really getting worried, and would ask, “Mom, what if I don’t make friends? Can I hang with you and Dad?” 

Jordan had never really gone outside of his little social circle, so this trip opened him up to new friendships – some that he still has today. On the trip, we only saw him when he needed money! When it was time to go to college, he was going to go to a college not far from here, but changed his mind and chose a school about 10 hours away. He went off to college on his own, and then went to Europe with the college choir. He would never have been able to do that without the experience of this trip. He just became very independent; it changed his life.

Our younger son, Cameron, changed too. Both boys developed that ability to become an individual, so they each became more responsible. Before his trip, in 2009, we kind of joked about Cameron sharing a room with these other kids. They were three to a room and we’d do room checks and you can imagine what those rooms could look like. The other two boys in the room, it looked like their suitcases had exploded! But Cameron, he had his little corner of the world. Everything was tidy, everything was neat, everything was put in a spot. He was never this way until he went on this tour! He stayed that way – still neat and organized in his own home.

What did you notice in your teenagers following the trip? 

Beyond the big things, like independence, self-sufficiency, maturity and confidence, there were so many little things. If we were watching the news or something on TV, they’d have a recognition about where that is. Our younger son is very oriented toward politics and history. The trip just reinforced some things that he believed in and that still shape him to this day. 

As state coordinators, what kind of impact do you see in Ambassadors participants?

We see so much growth. You’ll have a kid who’s from a small school in western Oklahoma where he’s the only one from his high school on the tour. He’s very quiet because he doesn’t know anybody, but as the trip goes on and he starts getting more comfortable, you see this beautiful blossoming of an individual and his personality. He’s walking down the streets of London, observing and learning – how to get on the Tube, how to get from one stop to another, understanding how the system works. It’s such empowerment for these kids. 

What do you share with fellow parents about this experience?

Here’s what we tell them. In your life, you’re going to buy a lot of stuff – a car, a cell phone, nice clothes – you’re going to have to do these things. But an experience will stay with you forever.

That car is going to go away at some point in time. You’re going to trade it in for another one. But the experience and the emotions and the impact of the travel and the opportunity to perform in the venues we get to perform in – you’ll always remember what that felt like. That stays with you forever; it’s priceless. You’ll have that memory inside you, inside your heart. That’s going to remain with you, and it’s going to mold you and shape you to the individual you become. Thank you so much to Greg and Diane Johnson for taking the time to share their experience as both parents and coordinators. We look forward to sharing more stories of the incredible impact the Ambassadors of Music has on students as they make memories and gain invaluable life experience that shapes the rest of their lives. To connect with the state coordinator in your area, visit our State page.

About Ambassadors
of Music

The Ambassadors of Music tour offers talented student musicians an unparalleled opportunity to explore the best of Europe, including the birthplace of classical music itself. This fifteen-day tour takes students and directors on an adventure through five countries, with once-in-a-lifetime cultural experiences throughout our journey, including performances in historic venues.