South O’ the Highway

Students Inspire Billy Joel to Call Minnesota Music Teacher

A little over a month ago, ABC News reported that Nick Johnson, music teacher and choir director at Stewartville High School in Minnesota, confessed to his students how much Sag Harbor’s Billy Joel means to him. On Wednesday, February 24, Johnson received a phone call from his idol.

So how did it happen?

Johnson had been fantasizing about Billy Joel coming to perform in his town, and jokingly said to his students, “Let’s get him to Stewartville.” One of those students, Julianne Waugh, took the joke seriously and started a Twitter account under the profile name @GetBilly2Stewie to promote the cause, also using the hashtag #GetBillyToStewie.

The Twitter campaign began to take on more and more momentum, with some choice tweets gaining a bit of recognition, even landing in an article posted by KTTC News early on in the campaign.

Though the story didn’t get the attention of celebrities and notable people such as Jimmy Kimmel, Ellen DeGeneres, Oprah Winfrey or President Barrack Obama—as some of the students had hoped by reaching out to them on Twitter—it did eventually catch the eye of the Piano Man himself.

Billy Joel’s assistant reached out to Johnson via email on Tuesday, February 23 to let him know that Billy Joel would in fact reach out to him the following day.

Johnson told his students, and Waugh, happy about her successful campaign, told ABC news, “I was just so happy and thrilled that [my teacher’s] dreams are finally coming true, that he gets to talk to [Joel], that I just wanted to cry in happiness.”

ABC 6 news reports that when Joel called, he and Johnson spoke for about 40 minutes, talking about life and music. Johnson, who had a great and somewhat surreal experience talking to Joel said, “He was so genuine.” Johnson’s wife, who was also a big fan, even got to speak with Joel, followed by Johnson’s daughter. The teacher commented on how Joel interacted with his family, saying he was “just a really genuine and sweet man.”

Though Joel isn’t going to play at Stewartville or visit in person, he agreed to hold a Skype call with Johnson’s students sometime soon. The musician also offered to send a memento to hang in the school’s choir room.

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