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For The Love of Sound

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Peggy Still Johnson in recording studio Oz Magazine got the chance to interview Peggy Still Johnson, an accomplished film and music producer for film and digital media in Georgia. We were able to learn more about the importance of sound through our interview with Johnson and her passion for film. At an early age, her love for film scores made her realize that she wanted to become a composer and music supervisor for film. She has a very impressive résumé that most people can only aspire to have, and she is proof that it is possible. Her responses are thoughtful and full of clarity as she explains how she has gotten to where she is now in her career.

In the years after graduating from college, her aspirations were to work in film. She performed in bands, founded and sold a successful music school in Georgia called the Peggy Still School of Music, and then ran a non-profit organization. She has had opportunities to work in notable productions like The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Bessie, and Parental Guidance. …Johnson adds, “I have worked on a number of independent projects as a composer and music supervisor and now work with the post team at GO Media Productions and Pendulum-Productions. Though I still work wearing many hats in film and in fundraising, I enjoy most working in post-production composing stems, creating theme songs, working in sound design, and music supervision.” Johnson has also held leadership positions that include serving on the Board of Governors (Composer Seat) for the Recording Academy (Grammy Organization.)

Johnson’s humility shines through all that she shares with us, including talking about her musical influences ranging “from Brian Eno, Philip Glass, to Trent Reznor. As a female composer and in the industry, Hildur Guðnadóttir (Oscar winning female composer of the movie Joker) really gives me hope that women may be given more opportunities and women can create raw, edgy, and impactful work. Tyler Perry’s commitment to filming in Georgia has also influenced me to keep believing that we Georgians, if we create it, the work will come. My college teacher and mentor Dr. Robert Thompson has taught me so much, always believed in me, and influenced my work, and now Wayne Overstreet and Len Gibson of GO Media Productions are a huge inspiration to me as they continue to mentor and teach me more about the industry and about post-production. The other talented, brave, and successful women I work with and admire like Mala Sharma, Margaret Marshall, and Diane Durrett also continue to be a strength to me in my journey along with my longtime writing and producing partner Nev Walker. Nev and I were both mentored by Eddie Horst (composer of “In The Heat of the Night” and Man on the Moon) and there isn’t a month that goes by that we don’t talk about Eddie and the influence he still has in our work and in our lives.”

From silent films to talkies to how film has evolved today, we have made a giant leap technologically, in regards to sound. It’s no secret that sound has always been an important factor in a film, and music has strengthened that importance. Music will make the audience feel intensity or sorrow, or even the excitement of a grand adventure. Sound’s impact is limitless and gives an otherwise bland scene color. If you were to go to a theater with surround sound and just close your eyes, you would be able to feel the emotion along with the vibration of the sound. You would be able to get the tone and the emotion of the film without seeing one scene. That is what makes sound so precious.

Johnson feels that “Sound can make or break any project. If the sound quality and score is at a poor level in creativity or in mixing and mastering, it will distract from the film experience for the audience. I have always been a minimalist meaning, I feel it is better to support the visuals rather than overpower with too much music or sound. My favorite film composers are Hans Zimmer, Danny Elfman, and Trent Reznor. Their work is of high quality and highly creative using sound textures in addition to orchestrations and layering. I really think sound design and sound effects are very important and can be incorporated into the music score or vice versa. Feature film dramas like The Social Network show how effective a good score, sound effects, and sound design can have on a film adding so much tension and release even where there is no real action in the film.”

With technology being a huge part of Johnson’s job, technological advancements have been the cornerstone of sound’s evolution in television and film. Without it, we would still be watching silent films while a pianist plays the accompaniment near the stage. For Johnson, “The creation of ProTools and Finale and other similar digital audio workstations… have been a game changer in the industry. In the 90’s I started using Cakewalk music software (now considered vintage) and the Alesis ADAT digital 8 track recorder and created my avant garde album Footsteps using mostly analog recording. Today, with plugins, time sync, and music notation software, the sky’s the limit. Our team at Pendulum-Productions recorded our latest album Pendulum working remotely sending files to one another (to as far as London) through the internet. We only needed a couple of recording sessions to lay down live tracks but it was amazing through the pandemic how we were able to still create and also work together also creating the soundtrack and film score for the documentary film Hello World (now streamed in 56 countries) without being in the same room together. It is because of the advances of technology we are able to have home studios which saves on overall film budgets and we can be selective on booking studio time (which also saves time and money) and yet not be impacted by circumstances out of our control like COVID-19.” No longer are we unable to create due to unforeseen circumstances. Now that recording equipment and the internet are largely accessible, people are able to learn, create, and publish something all with the click of a button (or more). It can only be imagined what the future will have in store for us as sound technology develops even further.

It is important to Johnson that people know that Georgia has the talent and that successful projects can not only be created here but also completed in post-production. As we know, Georgia is one of the top producers of TV and film because our tax incentives are great for productions, but something I was unaware of is that post-production is still lacking as far as Georgia is concerned. The majority of post work is being done elsewhere. People are being hired out of state because that is what they are used to doing. Johnson stated, “Georgia still has a way to go to attract post-production projects. Generally post-production work is given to post teams in Los Angeles, New York, and Nashville. Filmmakers want to finish their films in their home town and/or work with those they are most comfortable with. With better post-production tax incentives, we may influence some filmmakers who are willing to take a chance on Georgia talent, especially if they can receive money back from the incentive. Our post-production tax incentives in Georgia need to be updated to benefit film production companies instead of benefitting the post house. The way the incentives work today for post-production, there is not much allure in hiring Georgia talent for post.” Hopefully this will change at some point as people become more aware that Georgia is more than capable of handling a production from start to finish. Johnson continues that “This is something that Georgia Post Alliance (GPA) has been working on to bring awareness of our collective group of talent and creatives in Georgia working in post. I am hopeful with the many working to bring awareness of the talent that is here.” “We as a team at GO Media Productions work together to analyze the films with the director, producer, and post teams giving our input on what we feel is working great for the film and what needs improvement. I do have great respect for those working in all aspects of post from coloring to sound. It is fascinating and vital to creating a good film. My hope is that more programs in Georgia are created to train up and coming talented students to learn the craft of visual and sound work in post-production.”

Johnson states, “Post-production as a whole fascinates and excites me. I am so blessed to have a wonderful music and sound design team at Pendulum-Productions but also to work with GO Media Production’s post-production team. Under the supervision of Wayne Overstreet, long time post-production veteran and General Manager (Wolffe Bros Post and Overstreet Production & Post), we are working in post offering everything from editing, coloring, ADR, SFX, VFX, motion graphics, mixing, mastering, music, sound design, and clearances. As a producer and manager, I love it all! Though GO Media Productions develops, funds, and distributes films, because of Wayne Overstreet, Len Gibson, and myself, we are very interested in post-production especially offering services here in Georgia hiring Georgia talent. We are also looking for interns in video production and digital marketing with social media. We always have a preference to work with those who live in Georgia. Though there are so many new innovations in technology today, talent in Georgia is what I am excited most about.”

With a rich and complex history, “Georgia’s sound legacy is like nowhere else in the world. From the origination of the blues, to recognizably Georgian’ styles of R&B, Southern rock, hip hop to classical. Georgia’s music has shaped the soundtrack for the world. For this reason, past rockers like Hans Zimmer, Danny Elfman, and Trent Reznor, have had much success mixing commercial music with old school classical orchestrating. So I believe Georgia has had a huge influence on music, scores, and soundtracks created today especially since Georgia has influenced music for decades from the blues, to country, to hip hop to classical. As a composer, I am inspired and influenced by the music created in Georgia. I really enjoyed working with John Mellencamp, Andy York, and their team collaborating with Stephen King and T Bone Burnett in the musical “Ghost Brothers of Darkland County.” The incredible music was Americana blues with a folk and gothic feel and I feel to be some of John Mellencamp’s best work. T Bone Burnett has had a huge influence bringing the Americana feel to film and television scores which of course is highly influenced by the music created here in Georgia and in the South.”

When asked if she had any advice to give to people wanting to branch into sound design and music production in film, Johnson said, “Anything you do, do it because you love it and remember it is not a sprint. Becoming proficient at your craft and getting gigs takes time and if you really love working in film on the sound and music side, the work will come if you keep at it. You may have to score a few films for free or for not much pay but it will help you grow your demo reel and of course grow your experience. The more diverse projects you can work on, the more diverse your tools and creativity will be. We all have our specialties and preferences. Some are technicians and some prefer to be creative artists. If you can practice at both and of course read music and know orchestration, your odds of success will be higher.” Johnson’s experience and humility and love for her craft give off an energy that I would love to learn from, being a woman in a male-dominated industry.

Johnson is exemplary of the journey that we all take in this life. When asked if she had anything else that she wanted to share, she simply stated, “I feel incredibly blessed to have moved from San Diego to Georgia over 35 years ago and incredibly blessed to be here during such an exciting time in the industry…I feel my best work is yet to come.”

Peggy Still Johnson Retires from Callanwolde

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For immediate release.


Michael Turner

Marketing and Publicity Director

404-872-5338 ext. 228


Callanwolde Fine Arts Center Executive Director, Peggy Still Johnson, Stepping Down

November 13, 2017. Atlanta, GA

Nearly five years ago the Board of Directors at Callanwolde Fine Arts Center set ambitious goals for newly hired Executive Director, Peggy Still Johnson. Much to their surprise, Peggy would accomplish these goals in half the time they expected. Top on this list of priorities was to restore all seven of the buildings on the 12-acre campus to their past glory and, in doing so, expand the program offerings to better serve the diverse arts community in Greater Atlanta. At the time of Johnson’s arrival, only three buildings were being utilized for classes. On October 25th of this year, the Board’s ambitious goal was realized with the ribbon-cutting for the final restoration project at the estate, and for the first time in its history, Callanwolde is able to utilize the entire campus for arts education.

Starting in 2014, Peggy helped lead a Capital Campaign, raising $2.1 million to restore these buildings for classes and workshops. The renovation project includes the Ruby Callaway Robinson GreenHouse, a state of the art climate controlled greenhouse (designed by the architectural firm Lord Aeck Sargent and renovated by Macallan Construction) which will be used for Callanwolde School of Horticulture and Culinary Arts classes and workshops. The Greenhouse has been named in honor of GreenHouse Foundation Co-Founders CeeLo Green and Shedonna Alexander’s grandmother, Ruby Callaway Robinson, and will serve as the new home for the GreenHouse Foundation’s School Partnership Training Program along with Captain Planet Foundation’s Project Learning Garden Program.

Additionally, the Gardener’s Cottage (designed by Lord Aeck Sargent and renovated by Macallan Construction) originally the home of the Candler family’s live-in gardener now serves as Callanwolde’s Rick Baker School of Music and Music Recording; an expansion into music lessons and classes for music recording for which Johnson led the charge. As part of this new focus, Johnson recruited friend and former colleague, Phil Tan, three time Grammy Award winning mixing engineer– to become Callanwolde’s Director of Music Recording and Artist in Residence and to house a state of the art recording studio (designed by Lord Aeck Sargent and renovated by Gay Construction and Baldwin and Clark Construction) on the Callanwolde campus in the third and final building that was part of the restoration project. The recording studio, located in a Barn original to the estate, has hosted Callanwolde music recording classes along with Tan’s work mixing tracks from artists such as Coldplay, Shakira, Fifth Harmony and more. The Barn received a preservation award for “Excellence in Rehabilitation” from the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation.

Johnson reflects back on her time at Callanwolde as a time of growth, not only for the organization but for her, personally and professionally. “Being the Executive Director, for nearly five years, has been one of the most amazing, hardest and best experiences of my career. I am so proud of what we have been able to accomplish in what we thought would take 10 years to do in the transformation of Callanwolde. This could not have been done without the help of so many: staff, Board, DeKalb County, donors, members, volunteers, and all who support Callanwolde by taking classes, buying tickets and renting our facilities. Through counsel from my family, my executive coach and humble prayer, I have decided it is time to step away and see what God has in store for me next. Callanwolde is an amazing gem and I feel humbled I was able to call it my second home these past five years.”

Board member and President, Katie Seitz, says “Peggy Johnson’s impact on Callanwolde and the community will be felt for years to come.”  Past President and Emeritus Board Member Andrew Keenan agrees: “Under Peggy’s leadership, Callanwolde has been transformed to be reflective of the arts and the community today in Atlanta and DeKalb County yet remembering our history and staying true to the mission and longtime supporters. Callanwolde has gone from a ‘hidden gem’ to a ‘known gem’ and we will always be grateful to Peggy for her dedication and hard work these past five years.”

A search for the new Executive Director is underway.  Johnson will remain in her role during the transition which is expected to occur early next year.

Ribbon Cutting   Ruby Callaway Robinson GreenHouse 2

Barn Exterior   Recording Studio

Callanwolde Mansion


Press Release Photos 2017


About Callanwolde Fine Arts Center

The Callanwolde Foundation, operating as Callanwolde Fine Arts Center, is a 501c3 nonprofit organization whose mission is to preserve the historic Candler Estate and offer fine arts and outreach to the community.


Benjamin Button wins 3 Academy Awards

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In 2006, Peggy was hired by Paramount Pictures to train actress Edith Ivey on piano for her role as the piano teacher (Mrs. Maples) in the 2008 blockbuster movie The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett.). The film was nominated for 13 Academy Awards, winner of 3 Academy Awards.

Benjamin Button_thumb

People on the Move

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Peggy was recently featured in Urban Lux Magazine – “People on the Move” For more information go to


Footsteps album released for 2010

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Peggy has been signed to Aucourant Records for her avant garde recording entitled Footsteps which was re-released in 2010. For more information go to aucourantrecords.comfootsteps

Finale Article About Peggy

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Finale: Where Peggy Still Johnson, Stephen King, John Mellencamp, and T-Bone Burnett Meet

By Scott Yoho7. November 2012 06:52

peggy with t bone burnett - music director

Peggy Still Johnson is an accomplished performer (piano and vocal), composer, arranger, educator, and more. Reading the accomplishments on her website bio is alternately inspiring, humbling, and dizzying in its diversity. She’s performed in Vegas, written choral and instrumental pieces for the dedication of the Mormon Temple in Atlanta, and has been active in the film world as a composer, music supervisor, casting agent, and coach (including work as a piano coach on The Curious Case of Benjamin Button).

Simultaneously with all of the above, she launched three Peggy Still-branded music schools which she sold last year (and which continue to prosper). It’s at this point of her story where we began our interview.

Peggy: So we sold the business last year. Right around the same time, I got called to work on the Ghost Brothers of Darkland County, which was written by Stephen King, with music by John Mellencamp, and T-Bone Burnett as the music director. I was hired to create the scores by transcribing them off of audio files.

SY: So you did the transcription by listening to the recordings, and creating the notation in Finale. Then did you meet with T-Bone Burnett to see if he was satisfied with your work?

PSJ: I first worked very closely with John’s guitarist, Andy York. Andy has been the lead guitarist in John Mellencamp’s band for over 20 years. He’s the show’s music supervisor and did much of the arranging. Later we all worked together with T-Bone Burnett and with John Mellencamp. They would provide feedback and I would make the changes.

SY: The show sounds fascinating.

PSJ: One of the things that sets the show apart is that it reaches everyone. The vocalists are not singing with a heavy vibrato, they’re singing rock and roll style: It’s something that the average listener can relate to. It’s basically a gothic tale, kind of showing what happens when family issues are not resolved.

We had people coming to the show who were not normal theatre-type people. They were people who really liked Stephen King, and they were people who really liked John Mellencamp and people who were intrigued. I firmly believe that it will open up the doors to a wider audience for musicals.

And the music is so good. I mean, they spent more than ten years working on this show to get it to where it got to last year.

SY: And the show premiered in Atlanta?

PSJ: Yes. It was very, very successful last spring. And now, they are talking with producers about bringing the show to New York.

SY: Would that mean additional work for you or is that book pretty much done?

PSJ: I’m still working on the book. The band basically plays by ear, so they already know their parts, but we’re trying to get all those parts on score.

SY: Let’s talk about your tools. When did you first use Finale?

PSJ: It was when I was in college, probably, oh, many years ago.

SY: Do you remember what version it was?

PSJ: I don’t even remember what version it was. It wasn’t anything like this. It wasn’t near as user-friendly as it is now.

SY: You really wanted to put music on the printed page.

PSJ: I did. My handwriting is not the best, and I thought it would look better if I had it on some kind of format that would be easier to read. And if I made a mistake I didn’t like the idea of having to redo it all again. I converted to computers early on, and I didn’t like the idea of backtracking. If I wanted to change one note I didn’t want to feel like I had to redo the entire page.

SY: We take that for granted today.

PSJ: We do. And I didn’t like really using pencil, either, because it’s hard to see. So I really hooked on to Finale early on. And through the years I’d use it all the time for a variety of projects. Even if I wasn’t asked to create a score, sometimes I’d create one in Finale to have ready access to vocal parts, harmonies, and things like that.

When I worked with high schools on their musicals, I would do all the tracks. I’d get the scores and I would play them all, all the accompaniments. And then I would play all of the vocal parts, and then I would make tracks that help the kids to learn the music quickly, so that we could focus on the show. And the same thing goes with, you know – and I would do all the arranging, because sometimes it was just a couple instruments versus an entire orchestra.

So I would use Finale to do that, too.

I think the other thing that is real important to me, and you’ll see it on my bio, is that I’m very education-oriented. I’ve taught for 20 some odd years and I still teach. And I believe that technology and music education are a great fit. I think if you incorporate technology, you’ll be a better educator.

Some educators are afraid to embrace technology. They still really like the pen to the paper kind of thing, but they don’t realize the benefits they’re missing. Like in Ghost Brothers we change keys all the time. They would come back to me and say, “Let’s change the key.” And it would be just a couple of buttons and that was it. I didn’t have to sit there and redo everything. It was so much easier. I had so much more flexibility. I could change tempos. I could change meters, anything.

SY: Again, all those things we take for granted today.

PSJ: Yes. It just saves you a lot more time so you can just focus on working on the musical part of things.

I couldn’t have said it better myself! I’d like thank Peggy for taking the time to talk with us and for her continued support of Finale.