Catching Up with Stephanie Anne Johnson ’06

Featured / April 4, 2014
By Stefanie Ellis
RESOLUTE Contributor
When Stephanie Anne Johnson ’06 walks into a room, you might not notice at first. With her quiet, humble and unassuming nature, she easily could slip past those expecting a “star.”

Take the recent house concert in Seattle, where Johnson was booked to perform. Some guests who chatted with Johnson were surprised to learn she was the evening’s entertainment.

One guest even mentioned that Johnson could go on “one of those TV music shows.”

Even as she became a star, during her lively run on The Voice in 2013, Johnson was nothing like the over-the-top coaches with whom she worked.

Stephanie Anne Johnson: 'Black Horse and the Cherry Tree' (Video by NBC)In 2013, then-cruise-ship singer Stephanie Anne Johnson ’06 auditioned for 'The Voice.'


She’s the same on stage as she is in person: While pursuing all her passions—with great success—this delightfully authentic superstar-in-the-making has stayed true to herself. In addition to a unique voice that’s a rich mix of Nina Simone, Fiona Apple and Amy Winehouse, Johnson also has a heart of gold and a steady dedication to service—which started early.

As a Girl Scout Daisy and Brownie, Johnson found a place with other girls without “some of the judgment you get at school,” she says. “We did a lot of talking about how to grow up while still being who you are. You take on bigger challenges and have a wider skill set while still being you at the core.”

She incorporated those life lessons into her grown-up job as a staffer and troop leader at Girl Scouts of Western Washington, where she led five troops each week, working with girls on everything from self-esteem to community improvement.

Eventually, she branched into other service, including as an AmeriCorps volunteer at the Al Davies Boys & Girls Club in Tacoma.

I like to think of myself as compassionate and a work in progress. If I’m not the best at living up to everything I hold dear, I hope that I will continue to grow into that person.


“When I was on The Voice, a reporter once asked me if I knew I was now a role model,” she remembers. “If a kid is upset because they didn’t have breakfast that morning or kids are making fun of them because their clothes are dirty, that’s role–model time. That’s changing someone’s life. That’s love. Me singing in public is joyful and fun, but it’s not anything like being at the community center where homeless members in our community get hot meals.”

(Photo: Sam O'Hara)Johnson says she learned to conquer her stage fright at PLU.+Enlarge Photo
“I love my music and I don’t have the heart to quit it, but I feel strongly about the future of our kids and our education system. The responsibility of being a good steward is not something I take lightly. I’d like to be a lightning rod for issues surrounding people who don’t have a voice. Women and girls, the homeless, the LGBT community … I like to think of myself as compassionate and a work in progress. If I’m not the best at living up to everything I hold dear, I hope that I will continue to grow into that person.”

Johnson’s growth as an artist began at the age of 8, when she was given her first tape player. She remembers coming home from school, turning on her Walkman and singing all afternoon in her room with the doors and windows closed so no one would hear her.


“My brother heard my singing and told my mom that she should get me voice lessons. The first time I sang in public was at a coffeeshop. I was 15 and felt awkward and didn’t know what to do with myself. I remember being really scared. My heart was beating really fast in my ears. I was scared people would look at me.”

Her time at Pacific Lutheran University helped her conquer some of that stage fright. She was in Choir of the West and and remembers trips to California and and singing in churches and universities in Eastern Europe.

“I was singing with the best voices I’ve ever heard,” she notes. “People who sang in that choir have gone on to Julliard.”

“There was some great programming in the choral music department. And there still is, because Dr. (Richard) Nance is there. He was a really caring guy, and so knowledgeable. I felt challenged in that way that I love to feel challenged when I do music. He was all about choral fundamentals—–how to stand and form the proper vowels. I think that really helped me relax on stage because I knew what to do. There wasn’t a time I was like, ‘How do I do this?’”

After PLU and her work for Girl Scouts and AmeriCorps, Johnson took a step toward her performance dreams—–complete with flotation devices. (Really: She was on a boat.) A friend connected her with a cruise line, which eventually led to auditions for The Voice—and knockout performances for two celebrity coaches.

A lot of people wait around for validation and for the world to tell them they’re doing the right thing, but that’s something you have to tell yourself.
(Photo: NBC)Johnson, with 'The Voice' host Carson Daly, reacts to a 'steal' by judge Christina Aguilera.+Enlarge Photo



Now, no longer the shy girl singing alone in her room, Johnson recognizes the gifts she has to share with the world and has no plans to stop sharing. She’s working on her next album, performing and giving her soul “a bit of nourishment.”

(Photo: Sam O'Hara)Johnson says she recognizes the gifts she has to share with the world and plans to continue her music career.+Enlarge Photo
“A lot of people wait around for validation and for the world to tell them they’re doing the right thing, but that’s something you have to tell yourself,” she says. “You’ve got to be gentle with yourself and remind yourself you did a good job.”

Not the kind of advice you’d get from someone who begs to be noticed. But Johnson knows who she is and is comfortable with that. You don’t learn that from fame.

“My sense of self is really important to me,” says Johnson. “If who I am is not good for someone, talk to the next person down the line.”



Stefanie Ellis
Stefanie Ellis
Telling a story comes naturally for Ellis, because it’s what she has done her whole career. Prior to her work with Girl Scouts, she served as publications editor for Saint Louis University School of Law, was senior copywriter at an ad agency and was a longtime contributor to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and St. Louis magazine. She provides freelance writing, editing and PR consulting services in her spare time.




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