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Negleatha Johnson preps for debut at prestigious Blues Alley (interview)

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Songwriter, workshop clinician and choir director Negleatha Johnson will step center stage on Wednesday, June 25 at Washington, D.C.’s prestigious Blues Alley. The celebrated nightspot that has played to some of the biggest names in blues and jazz will get an infusion of gospel jazz on Wednesday, June 25.

The native North Carolinian who initially set her sights on a career as a choral music teacher released her fourth CD, "Luke Chapters I and II, More than a Season" in December of 2013.

Negleatha "Dr. J" Johnson spoke with the DC Gospel Music Examiner about her upcoming concert and her journey into the world of gospel music.

How do you feel about performing at Blues Alley?
"I am way passed excited. This is an opportunity that we had been praying for several years and had made some efforts but it just wasn’t time for that door to be open. And now we are on Wednesday it's our time."

Your performance is billed as a night of inspirational jazz. Why do you like that musical style?
"If I were to categorize the music that I do I probably wouldn’t even put it in a category, because I write the music that God gives me. I’ve written music that fits into the category of gospel jazz; I’ve written a lot of traditional music; a lot of urban contemporary. The music that I feel suits me best vocally and feels like a comfortable house shoe is under that category of gospel jazz. Before I committed to being in the ministry of music, I had written all different kinds of songs, R&B, you name it. I always liked music that had a comfortable, intimate side. The gospel jazz category just tends to suit who I am as a person and also how I deliver best vocally."

How did you get into gospel music?
"My mother was adamant that I and my 3 older sisters would take piano lessons and so I always enjoyed taking piano lessons. It just resonated with me and let me go to the places that I needed to go. I enjoyed music and I started writing music when I was 10. I wrote a song for my class play about medieval times and played it on my ukulele."

Johnson initially planned to enter the teaching profession.
"I planned to teach high school music, choral music but God sent me into some different directions after I landed a job as a college administrator. God called me out of that wonderful job with words that I’ll never forget. He said 'I need you to get back to the order that I had ordained.' So I resigned from my job, very reluctantly, but as we all know God will have his way and it became clear to me as I sought the Lord literally on my face that he wanted my husband and I to become stewards over a ministry. We started Life Waters Ministries International in 1996. The music portion is the foundation of what we do. That’s how I got back to the gospel side of music and have had no regrets as difficult and challenging as this work is, God has been faithful at every single turn."

What can folks expect from you on Wednesday night? "They will see one excited lady! The beauty for me is that I get to go in there and just be who I am. I don’t have to be anybody different. The word that needs to go forth needs to go forth to everybody. People who come will have an opportunity to hear some original music but they will also get an opportunity to hear what my journey has been like through song. They'll hear some wonderful musicians. I think the musicians in this area have to be some of the best in the nation. They are going to experience something that I think will have them wanting to know more about who God is who has given me this music and guided me through some pretty challenging times."

Johnson is also featured in the book, “How Did They Do That?” Written by Deborah Tompkins Johnson, the book examines the lives of twelve people from various professions and the common thread that helped them through difficult times.

Blues Alley is located at 1073 Wisconsin Ave NW, Washington, DC. Tickets are available for the evening's two shows, 8 p.m. and 10 p.m., at www.bluesalley.com.

© 2014 Sarah Hearn All rights reserved. Reproduction of this article in part or in its entirety on websites, newsletters, magazines, etc. without permission is expressly prohibited. DCMA rules will be applied.

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