Lynelle Johnson has been traveling the world for years. Now, after performing across Europe and the United States, the AU alum will be returning to perform at her alma mater with the Anderson Symphony Orchestra Saturday, April 29 in Reardon Auditorium.
Johnson, who studied voice performance at AU, has spent most of her time travelling throughout Europe, particularly in Germany, where she toured, singing everything from Mozart to Freddy Mercury, showing the versatility of her instrument. Looking back, she remarked on how her own background as a “Swedish Lutheran girl from Minnesota inspired by the fabulous Christian music artists connected to the university,” coupled with the experiences she had in her undergraduate, prepared her for the career she had ahead of her.
“I came out with a full range of music experience from Opera and Musical Theatre to Choral, Gospel and contemporary Christian,” she said. “The music department truly gave me such opportunities to perform in all genres of music with one style and form of music impacting the other and I believe giving me the skills to become the Crossover Artist I am today.”
But not all of her international experience was professional, and Johnson, who was involved with Chorale and Tri-S, learned to serve overseas before making a career of international performance.
“The incredible opportunities I had with Tri-s to travel to India and work with Mother Teresa, help in medical clinics in the Amazon-like regions of Peru or sing with the AU Chorale in churches across Finland and Russia,” she said. “I mean who has these experiences without being completely impacted and changed on the worldview front?”
But a life overseas is not just a cruise (though Johnson has performed on them), and with a profession so linked to her ability to perform well Johnson had to learn to separate her self-worth from her music and to trust herself.
“One of the hardest lessons I have learned is that you can’t sing for other people’s approval,” Johnson said. “Someone will always be critical and ruin your confidence if you let them. You have to get out of your own way and out of your head as a performer and let the gift from above just be present. Let the art be where it dwells, beyond the artist.”
Some challenges of tour life have been both emotional and physical, as when Johnson gave birth to her son Julien. She did not halt her career when she was expecting him, and looking forward, she wants to include her son in her life as a performer rather than keeping her professional and family lives apart.
“I performed on the stage up until I was 9 months pregnant and was back on the stage two weeks after the birth,” she said. “In some respects, it didn’t change my performance schedule so much. I am fortunate to be singing a lot of concerts right now, which only take me away for a night or two, and sometimes I can bring him along which can be a treat. He is very flexible and goes to the theatre like a real New Yorker. I spend all of my time not performing watching him grow and enjoying life through his eyes. What a gift.
I don’t plan to stop singing that is for sure. I think it is important for children to see their parents still fulfilling dreams. If anything, I will slow down a bit on long tours or extremely far away destinations. Julien is absolute sunshine and joy. He is of course the smartest little 14-month-old in the world. He loves music and sleeping on my shoulder while I sing high notes. So if you notice that I am a little lopsided and breathing out of one side of my body when I perform, that is why.”
Though Johnson is living in New York for the time being, she has had to develop methods to keep herself physically and emotionally healthy when on the road, and she emphasizes how discipline in diet and exercise while maintaining a healthy community have helped her enjoy touring rather than letting it just exhaust her.
“Health and fitness are a big factor in sustaining me on long touring gigs,” she said. “I am a runner and I truly pay attention to what I eat that I am maintaining a fresh mainly Mediterranean diet. Your traveling cast family brings you so much joy on a tour where lifelong friends and memories are made. I think the biggest factor is the love everyone has for what they are creating together each night on the stage and the audience members who are so moved by what you are doing. That makes it all worth it.”
Though the last time Lynelle performed with the Anderson Symphony Orchestra was in their 2015 Broadway Review Concert, at which she was one of several guest vocalists, she is the focal point of the Centennial Concert. The concert offers audiences a look at the breadth of all the styles and genres her voice can handle. Johnson will perform jazz numbers, songs from musicals, spiritual songs and more, but she is especially looking forward to performing classical works and singing with the Chorale.
“I am excited we are performing such a broad spectrum of music in the concert. For any soprano, a chance to sing Mozart is golden, and where the Exsultate Jubilate falls in the program, it will be nice to bring my classical side first to the public. I am also looking forward to singing Skylark with the AU Chorale, as this group was such a dynamic part of my experience at AU.”
With as much travel as Johnson does year-round, the opportunity to perform back where she had so many formative moments is one she does not take lightly.
“Any chance to come home to a family of people who influenced your life and career in so many ways is a great honor,” she said, “I am truly delighted and honored to stand before the AU crowd with such a fine Symphony Orchestra as Anderson Symphony Orchestra and share an evening together of beautiful music to celebrate a 100-year legacy of top-quality education in a faith-based environment.”
Lynelle Johnson will be performing with the Anderson Symphony Orchestra Saturday, April 29 at 7:30 p.m.