With the release of her album later this month, Sandra Johnson hopes to draw people to God as she realizes a dream she has held for years.
Johnson, who wrote each song on the album, started creating her own songs in elementary school. “It’s been, like, a passion that I’ve had as a secret thing with me, and I’ve written so many songs,” she said.
The Frederick resident recalled writing a song in the fifth grade about her desk being clean. In the past, she would also write songs about her friends’ personalities. But she didn’t view her singing and songwriting as a talent or tell her parents about her musical drive. Her father, she said, would want her to pursue “something better” than a career in music.
Johnson, who consults as a project manager and business analyst, held onto music over the years, continuing to write and performing at churches and various events. But July 30 will mark a special debut, as Johnson pursues her passion for music and releases her first album, “Thank God For Life.”
Johnson, 38, goes by Sandy Jay as a musician. She described her music as inspirational. The album, which she started planning in December 2013, includes six songs with different music styles that reflect a range of influences from a diverse set of friends. The song that shares the album title has a techno feel, she said. “Coming Back” has a blues vibe, and “Saturday Night” mixes pop with a Caribbean beat.
While her songs include Christian messages and Biblical references, she hopes her music will be played in both religious and nonreligious settings. Johnson looks to gospel singer Sister Rosetta Tharpe, describing her wide appeal and the deep messages found in her songs.
“I don’t want to impose my religion on people,” she said, adding that she’d “like every kind of person to be able to listen to my music.”
Johnson said she sees a lot of people outside the Christian church who she might reach through her music. She hopes that listeners of her songs who are non-religious, particularly youth who think the church is boring, will be drawn to her music and as a result learn about the lyrics and about her identity as a Christian.
“My goal is to be able to win souls for Christ,” she said.
Her songs cover a variety of topics. One of them, “Miracle,” is about her daughter, whose lungs collapsed when she was 1 year old. Johnson said she was told her daughter wouldn’t recover, but she survived.
Her album also includes the message that it’s never too late for people to do the things they wanted to do when they were younger, she said.
A few other artists appear on the album. Patty Progecene, Johnson’s voice coach, sings the choruses in the songs “Saturday Night” and “Coming Back.” The Rev. Niyi Adams, a saxophonist Johnson met years ago through church, plays a jazz version of the song “Good.”
Johnson’s decision to name the album “Thank God For Life” was based on her experience watching her mother deal with sickness. Her mother didn’t show a will to live, Johnson said. That response made Johnson think about appreciating life and the little things in it, and the idea that God delivers people from hardships.
“You don’t have to give up if something happens in your life,” she said. “That is not the end of life.”
After production costs are covered, Johnson said, part of the proceeds from the project will go to the Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Center and Frederick Memorial Hospital, where Johnson’s mother received treatment for a stroke. After seeing a large amount of debt from her mother’s treatment, she plans for that money to be directed to stroke patients and their families, she said.
Johnson is seeking sponsorships from businesses to help cover the cost of the project. She said she put more than $10,000 of her own money into creating the album. She plans to give something in return for each sponsorship, such as a performance at an event or copies of the album.
On July 30, Johnson will hold an album release party in Silver Spring for businesses, family, friends and members of the public to celebrate the project she has worked long and hard to complete.
Follow Lindsay Powers on Twitter: @linds_powers.
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If You Go
What: “Thank God For Life” album release party
When: 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. on July 30
Where: Champion Ethio Restaurant & Hookah Lounge, 7912 Georgia Avenue, Silver Spring, MD 20910
To learn more about the music of Sandy Jay and the event, go to sandyjaymusic.com.