This May, Johannes Nightingale is earning two Associate’s degrees – one in Liberal Arts Individual Studies from SUNY Broome and another in Liberal Arts from Berkshire Community College in Massachusetts, where he now lives.
He’s taking a gap year before pursuing the final two years of his bachelor’s degree, but is keeping busy – with his three business enterprises, and as a nationally ranked Observed Trials bicyclist. (Well, technically, he’s ranked seventh in all of North America.)
Did we mention that he’s just 17 years old?
Early college – and early CEO
SUNY Broome students from several years ago may remember a young Hornet in their classes, often accompanied by his mother, Regina Mason. The youngest of five children, Johannes grew up on a farm in Coventry and began attending classes at SUNY Broome in 2013, when he was just 12 years old, through the Early College program.
His first course – at the recommendation of his flute instructor – was music theory. He then took the placement exams required of full-time students, following it up with classes in English, math, computer programming and other core courses, as well as sound engineering. In addition to flute, he also performed with the college’s Chorus and the Chamber singers.
He left SUNY Broome in 2015, and studied for a year at Bard College at Simon’s Rock in Massachusettes. The academics there weren’t the right fit, he said, so then he enrolled in Berkshire Community College, where he focused on engineering design and film and continued to study flute.
He finished his Associate’s at SUNY Broome in December and will earn his Associate’s at Berkshire this June. In May, he will be at SUNY Broome’s Commencement ceremony as one of the Liberal Arts Division’s student marshals. Johannes has been the recipient of a Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Young Scholar scholarship since seventh grade, and he just won a JKCF College Scholarship worth up to $40,000 a year to finish his Bachelor’s degree.
He currently runs Johannes Nightingale Productions, a digital media production company that focuses on cinematography, pre- and post-production work and color-grading; projects include commercials and music videos, he said.
In the works is an online store that will sell watches, clothing accessories and other luxury items. Right now, he’s also laying the groundwork for an independent record label and records local artists in his own home studio. They come from all genres, from folk and country to hiphop, rap and rock, he said.
“My goal is to find local artists on a smaller scale and give then a chance to start their careers,” he said.
While he is currently applying to four-year schools for a bachelor’s degree in business – Bentley University and Babson College are among his picks, and he’s already been accepted at the Rochester Institute of Technology – his current businesses are more than just a hobby. Through them, he hopes to lay the groundwork for his ultimate dream: to start and run large-scale companies in industries ranging from media and advertising to technology, e-commerce, transportation and more.
Part of his interest in business is prosaic: “I’ve always wanted more money,” he quipped.
But there’s passion, too. “I love creating things, creating new products and helping people through my work,” he explained. “Nothing makes me happier than running a company.”
Getting his start
Johannes planted the seed in many of his endeavors while he was still a SUNY Broome student. In fact, that’s when he took up trials biking as a hobby and it took off from there, leading to competitions and national rankings.
The seeds of his business enterprises – in music, e-commerce and more – also were planted during his Hornet years.
“SUNY Broome was life-changing for me in every way possible,” Johannes reflected. “Simply letting someone my age take classes – it made everything after that possible.”