Finding light in the darkness

Justin Crann
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Penny Buhr Johnson to perform at Hopkins March 15

According to Caronport musician Penny Buhr Johnson, music is "kind of like coffee."

Penny Buhr Johnson will bring her inspirational jazz-country fusion to Hopkins Dining Parlour March 15.

"If you don't drink it, you get a headache and things go wrong," she told the Times-Herald. "I need (music) to survive."

Johnson describes herself as an inspirational jazz and country artist who plays "smooth, easy-going, romantic jazz … (she likes) to apply to gospel, pop, or whatever's out there.

"I like to sing songs from the 1930s — like Smile, for instance, which is one Charlie Chaplin wrote," she explained. "I like to do covers, and some originals, on a variety of topics but mostly alluding to life and love."

Music — her coffee — "has definitely been therapy … to help me work through things," Johnson added.

In her music, Johnson said she draws on life experience and "the struggles that we all deal with." Her message is "how you just have to be strong and keep looking up."

Johnson deals with her own challenge: she is legally blind.

"That has actually made me a better musician," she said. "It's exactly like they say: when one sense falters, the others pick up."

Johnson wasn't born blind, and adjusting to her sight impairment wasn't easy.

"I would freak out in my own head when it was too quiet. I'd think, 'Uh oh, they've all left. They're all gone,'" she said. "I've actually realized (silence) is a good thing, because (the audience) are listening … I had to change my thinking and imagine everyone smiling. They're all smiling and they're digging it."

Transportation was also an issue — Johnson lost her ability to drive — but she said she has found "quality people" who help her get to venues where she is performing.

She said that in spite of her blindness she remains "fiercely independent," but has learned to "be gracious and help others learn what it's like and how to be helpful.

"It's funny how people get. I almost prefer for them to see me, meet me for who I am, and that's it," Johnson said.

Johnson will perform at Hopkins Dining Parlour on March 15, from 6 to 9 p.m. Her performance will include some Irish fiddling. She has also been booked to perform at the Canada Day Festival in Crescent Park July 1.

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Organizations: Times-Herald

Geographic location: Crescent Park

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