Only a handful of musicians are associated with the Grammys. While she is not a celebrity, Isabella Johnson, an 18-year-old Kennesaw State student from Lawrenceville, can add herself to that list.
In 2017, jazz pianists Arturo O’Farrill and Chucho Valdés were awarded “best large ensemble jazz album” at the 59th Grammy Awards for their album “Familia: Tribute to Bebo and Chico,” which the freshman music technology major contributed to as an analytical producer.
Although she did not receive the physical award, she received a certificate for her successful contribution.
“One of my mom’s colleagues is a freelance producer,” Johnson said as she spoke on her relationship with Kabir Segahl, bestselling author of eight books and producer of O’Farrill’s and Valdés’ album. “He and I were in communication about what I want to do with my life, and he offered me the opportunity to work on the album with him.”
The album was inspired by two popular Latin jazz artists that wanted to compose an album in tribute to their ancestors and successors.
As an analytical producer, Johnson served as an advisor who gave professional feedback on the composition and lyrics of the album during its production. She said the job wasn’t too intimidating.
“It felt like I was just reviewing music in my room on any given day,” Johnson said.
Although she did not receive a ticket to attend the event, Johnson celebrated by ordering pizza and watching the award show from home with her friends. She fell asleep that night and said that she received numerous calls and texts the next morning asking about her Grammy-award-winning contribution.
Johnson’s musical journey began when she played the trumpet for seven years in the Loganville Christain Academy band.
“I began to fall in love with [music] in middle school, so I started getting into all types and genres of music,” Johnson said. “I began analyzing and writing some of my own. Later I realized I would rather help people make their own music than perform anything I wrote.”
The love of music is what continues to inspire her. Johnson plays the guitar and piano and describes her love for “dissecting” new musical content from all genres.
“Throughout the past few years, I have been more active with it,” she said. “I have done some freelancing production, written some personal things and a few other [things].”
Although Johnson is not currently working on any major projects and is mostly focused on her studies at KSU, she leaves an “open door” for whatever opportunity is presented to her. She plans to obtain a degree in music technology and production and desires to take her talent to New York.