Arnetta Johnson gives us a taste of what it's like to disrupt Jazz and succeed.


Arnetta Johnson 
The woman who disrupted Jazz forever

Written by Amirah Kane-Waheed 

Disruptive jazz is the music of the freethinkers. It is like hip-hop in the way that it unapologetically tells its story to prevent society from erasing it. In the words of Camden's Arnetta Johnson, it is just "her style". Arnetta is a dope trumpeter and composer who began her career with mentorship from a prolific jazz trio, Jamal, and Nasir Dickerson, as well as Hasan Sabree. Under their tutelage, Arnetta learned the fundamentals of musicianship as well as how to grow as an artist. She has had the opportunity to perform with some of music's royalty while performing the soundtracks of black culture to millions of people. A richly soiled foundation has contributed to her achievements, and she is determined to pass the baton to her successors. 

During an exclusive interview, we discussed the development process of her ABC (Arnetta's Band Camp) program, her latest music, upcoming performances at the Kimmel Center, and her experience working with music's dynamic duo Beyoncé and Jay-Z. For independent artists, she drops a plethora of gems and proves she has the blueprint that will boost your career to the next level. 

Arnetta Johnson

Hi Arnetta! Let me first congratulate you on receiving the $10,000 grant from Camden Community Partnership. Your ABC program will certainly benefit from it. Where are you in the development of that project now, and when will it begin?


Well, the ABC program is a needed resource that can be given to the community, especially through the arts. When I attended Creative Arts Highschool, I attended the P.A.C.E. program. The amazing part about creating my own camp is that I get to recreate the same experience for new students that I had as a youth. In our six-day camp, we will conduct ensembles where students will learn from professional instructors who specialize in music genres such as R&B, jazz, and other contemporary music. This experience will be a melting pot of different styles.


Our students will learn the importance of having good health, great social media marketing strategies, and self-management. In addition, they will receive private lessons from me that will enhance their playing. Overall, this is an opportunity to just have fun in the summertime. I’m so excited to provide a camp where kids can take this chance to advance their instrumental career, as well as benefit students who want to dive in and learn more about the arts for the first time. Nowadays, it’s unfortunate that a lot of our children must travel outside of their communities to be able to experience something like this. This will overall be an amazing opportunity that is “right up the street” from their homes. It was crucial to my musicianship, character, and perspective on life that early in my career, I was exposed to programs that invested time in me. My desire to carry the baton of that mission is what inspired me to create this camp.


Wow! It’s great to see that you have an inner attachment to this project. Your idea for the camp is brilliantly progressive, especially for the dreams of Camden’s youth. I can remember growing up in the city and catching multiple buses to go across town to attend music programs my mom would sign me up for. Your desire to give back to your hometown in such a way is inspiring individuals who are watching your development as an artist. It is very encouraging, kudos to you for that! What can you expect camp goers to pick up and carry throughout their musical journey after attending this six-day experience?

Wow, thank you so much. I want my students to know more about music than just music itself. Yes, we will play instruments together. Yes, we will be learning music. Ultimately, though, we will also learn skills beyond the notes. I want my students to learn how to maintain their mental and physical health. If you want to have a successful career in music, you need to stay in good health mentally and physically. It doesn't matter if you're a stage light technician, a sound technician, or an artist, you must also possess some level of musicianship. One of our trips will include a visit to a recording studio. Our goal is to show them how an engineer mixes and masters a record. We will also teach our students financial literacy. We will modify the curriculum for all ages between 12-18 to ensure that they leave with the necessary information for success. Planting those seeds early will allow them to flourish after we leave the camp.

Arnetta Johnson

That is incredible! In other words, you are using the term artist in a way that shatters the definition of what it means to be an artist. I was reading your Instagram bio, and I was intrigued. "Disruptive jazz is my style." I like it because it has a direct connection to hip-hop. They are both styles of music that need to be heard and understood. Listening to these two styles makes it impossible not to imagine the story behind what you are hearing. The freethinking individual can never be erased with this sound because it constantly proves the contrary to society. The likes of Tupac, NWA, and even Kendrick Lamar use both styles to express themselves musically. Throughout history, we have had such timeless examples who have proven that the art we make truly can and does change the world. To what degree would you say that art helps the world innovate?


If you want your art to have an impact on the world, you need to be properly equipped. In the beginning, I didn't just put together some beats and play the trumpet over them. That wasn't what it took for me to make this happen. I could have done that, but then what happens when someone asks, "What is this?" or "That ain't nothing but a backing track."? I had to be mentally prepared to deal with such situations. As my motto goes, you should always be ten toes down. In my song "Move Around," I sing, "You see me walking down the street ten toes down." I stand by this motto because it means you must study your craft and be disciplined. You must believe in yourself to the max. It is important to have the mindset that you are the best at what you do while remaining humble. Hustling is important, as is investing in yourself. I believe that faith without work is dead. Stay prepared for success by believing in what you have. 


Yes, I agree with you. Let's talk about your debut album, "If You Hear a Trumpet, It's Me". This was such an amazing body of work, it’s very inspirational for me especially when I'm writing poetry. Listeners can visualize what it is like to live in Camden through your music. I am particularly fond of the song "Who Are You". In that song, there is a theme of self-discovery. I was wondering, what your creative process was behind the piece and what you wanted your fans to feel when listening to it?


At the time, a lot was going on. People doubted my career and style because they could not understand the artist concept behind my work. As time passed, the pressure to prove myself to others began to weigh heavily on me. Who Are You is about self-discovery and proving your insecurities, fears, and naysayers wrong. It’s a song about constantly reassuring yourself that you are dope, you are cool, and you are ‘bout it. The song dismisses the negative energy that lingers close by when you are finding your way in life. My fans should know that no matter how heavy the growing pains of life are, they will never overcome the love they have for themselves. 

That's a real word! I wanted to come back around to your latest single "Move Around". I was truly surprised by this track because you flexed your pen skills and rapping skills! It was dope to experience this coming from you. Are we likely to hear more music like this in the future?


Yes, you will hear more music like that in the future! My music is disruptive jazz, so I want to disrupt every idea about what jazz is or was. The word jazz is a four-letter word to me. I’m here to disrupt every notion of the term jazz because it wasn't created by us. Most people know it as jazz, but it is the story of black people. Whether they were based on the struggle or the good times we spent on the porch, the term “jazz” simplified the meaning to over-simplify its power. Any song I write is going to have my disruptive stamp on it, whether I’m rapping or just playing the trumpet you’re going to catch a wave of emotions behind it. When I write, I like to have fun, and you'll see that when I perform "Move Around" at my upcoming show in March. I am very excited to talk about that, it is going to be a lot of fun.


Yes, let’s get into it! On March 19th, you’ll perform at the Kimmel Center in Philly. Your fans can't wait to see you perform and hear the weapon of brass disruption! What can we expect from your performance next month?


Expect the unexpected! Given that I'll be playing a lot of trumpet, I always tell people that my music is for moments that words cannot describe. It will also be an emotional journey. I want you to see somebody that’s pushing the mold to the max. Ultimately, just expect to come and have a good time! I want you all to bring all the energy, so bring signs and get ready to dance and turn up. Any idea you have of what a jazz show should be is not going to be the standard of my performance. I am coming to Kimmel to be disruptive with my jazz. 

In the words of Nicki Minaj, it’s going to be a legendary show! I am all for it and cannot wait to attend. Is there an album in the works for you now?

I can’t say an album, but there is music. Music is on the way.

I can appreciate the transparency because great art takes time to be made.

Yes, it takes time and a lot of money. But yes, there will be another album. There are a lot of songs in the work, so if there is an album that pops up next year do not be surprised.

Man, I can’t wait! Now, I must ask what everyone back at home has been wondering. How was it performing for one of the biggest performers of our time and playing on the "Everything is Love" album alongside her husband, the G.O.A.T. Jay-Z? 


It was epic, working with Beyoncé and Jay-Z was amazing. When I step on stage, I see a sea of people. Everyone looks like ants. Watching those two perform together and seeing the crowd go wild is incredible. Beyoncé's work ethic is impeccable. To give the fans an unforgettable experience, she invests a lot of herself. Our rehearsals are sometimes long, but they are so worth it! As well as working with them, I want to give a shout-out to Derek Dixie, our music director. The music wouldn't be what it is without him. I met him at Beyoncé's Parkwood Camp, and I have developed a professional relationship with him. He produced my track "Move Around", it is great to be a part of so many musicians coming together and creating great music. 


This goes to show that when you are at the right place, at the right time, and doing the right things, opportunities will begin to show up. It was a pleasure speaking with you about your accomplishments. I’m having a ball exchanging knowledge with you, but the thing that will always stand out for me is your undying passion to give back to your community. Is there anything you would like to share with the independent artists who read our blog before we wrap up?


Discipline is key! Study your craft and study your goal. Studying others who are doing what you aspire to do is the key to becoming a great entrepreneur. Make sure you follow your dreams and find a mentor who can guide you on your journey. As an artist, you must be wise with your money. It requires a great deal of investment. Having a career as an independent artist isn't easy because you must pay most of the bills out of your own pocket. Even though it's nice to splurge from time to time, you don't have to spend so much at first. Keep your goals in mind. Thank you so much for having me today. I look forward to seeing you at my show!


Stay tuned for updates on Arnetta's success as she continues to blaze the stage with her sound. She is innovative and influential for the world and her fans because of her constant drive to change the direction of broken systems with her weapon of brass disruption.  

Watch our Exclusive Interview with 
Arnetta Johnson 


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