Perhaps the next great jazz saxophonist, a rock and roll drummer destined for world renown or an opera singer with a future of fame and fortune is even now crossing the threshold of a music school in the Northland area.

Perhaps the next great jazz saxophonist, a rock and roll drummer destined for world renown or an opera singer with a future of fame and fortune is even now crossing the threshold of a music school in the Northland area.

Sax Entertainment Music Academy in the Cleveland Professional Park off Cleveland Avenue has entered into a partnership with Columbus City Schools to offer free lessons to students from 13 of the district's schools.

The "Give Back and Pay Forward Music Arts Initiative," a pilot program, got under way last week.

The schools chosen for the test project following negotiations between school district officials and Ron "Sax" Johnson, director of music operations for the school that bears his nickname, include: Linden McKinley High School, Brookhaven High School, Beechcroft High School, Columbus Global Academy, Medina Middle School, Como Elementary School, Huy Elementary School, Maize Elementary School, North Linden Elementary School, Linden STEM Elementary School, Windsor STEM Elementary School, South Mifflin STEM Elementary School and Hamilton STEM Elementary School.

Johnson, a professional musician and private instructor with a great deal of experience in both ends of the business, said that he eventually expects 186 students from these schools to take advantage of the scholarship program offering 12 free weekly private lessons.

According to Johnson's announcement of the program, Sax Entertainment Music Academy's more than 15 degreed and professional instructors will offer vocal training as well as lessons on saxophone, flute, clarinet, trumpet, trombone, French horn, baritone, tuba, violin, viola, cello, string bass, drums/percussion, piano and guitar.

The idea for the scholarship program, Johnson said, came to him as a result of some of his students telling him they would be forced to stop taking lessons because their often single-parent families could no longer afford them.

Rather than disappoint these children, Johnson offered free lessons to as many as he could in his spare time. It occurred to him that others on the faculty at Sax Entertainment Music Academy might also be willing to lend their teaching talents to young people in need when paying students weren't taking up their time.

"It won't kill you," Johnson said he told them.

They agreed.

"All the instructors bought into that," said the director of music operations, who grew up in the Short North and has mastered many musical instruments over the years, most notably, as his nickname implies, the saxophone.

Marti Henry, director of administrative services, marketing and media for Sax Entertainment, said that both she and Johnson have high hopes for how the scholarship program can grow.

"I think the sky's the limit, really," she said. "I see this becoming a very busy place, full of life and full of music."

"As concerned parents and educators, we realize that there are a number of school-age children that have musical talent who participate in school music programs and because of current economic conditions, do not have the opportunity to increase their musical skills through private music lessons," the announcement of the scholarship program stated.

Johnson, who at one point wrote a monthly entertainment for several European magazines and websites and was also a radio personality in for an English-language station in Spain, said that instead of seeking grants to provide funding for the scholarship program, he decided to rely upon his own donated time and that of his instructors. That's because when grant money is gone so, too, are the programs it pays for, and the kids who have relied upon it wind up losing, he said.

The director of music operations pointed out that the scholarship students will receive the same treatment as those paying for the lessons.

"The instruction we give for free is no different from what we give (students) paying top dollar," Johnson said.

Johnson added that as a young musician – he began playing professionally at around the age of 12 in, of all things, a mariachi band – he benefited from teachers willing to give a little extra effort to help him.

"This is just a natural thing to do."

Sax Entertainment Music Academy owners Ron Johnson and Marti Henry offered their thanks to a variety of individuals and businesses that made possible a pilot program offering private instruction to dozens of Columbus City Schools students. These include:

Sax Entertainment Music Academy instructors

Linda Wright, Unified Arts Coordinator for Columbus City Schools

Columbus City Schools, Partnership and Development

Columbus City Schools music teachers

Schell Scenic Studio

Guitar Center

Music and Arts (formerly Colonial Music)

Sam Ash Music

Evans Carpet Junk Yard

Gigi Mackowiak, the daughter of former Columbus Music store owner Lloyd Gaetz of Gaetz Music