“The Nile will never really leave me, nor will CAC” - Michelle Jonson, 2020
Award winning vocalist and singer songwriter Michelle Johnson has performed on Broadway, national television, and across the world with many other artists. She is the daughter of Martinus Johnson, a former Liberian diplomat who once served as the Liberian Ambassador to Egypt, and Barbara Johnson, who worked at CAC for many years as a teacher, principal and superintendent. The family moved to Cairo when Michelle was 4 years old, and she attended CAC from 1st grade to 2nd grade and then again from 5th grade until high school graduation in 1982.
Affectionately known as “Las Vegas’ First Lady of Jazz”, her soaring vocals, versatile repertoire, and ability to engage an audience in a dynamic, personal, and intimate way have made her a favorite in cabarets and performing arts centers across the country.
Michelle Johnson is a Yale graduate and the recipient of the National Association of Women Business Owners Woman of Distinction Award for her contributions in entertainment. She is also the 2020 Las Vegas Black Music Awards recipient of the Lena Horne Award for Musical Excellence.
We got in touch with Michelle and asked her to share with us her memories of her time at CAC. Here is what she had to say,” Unlike a lot of students who only got to attend CAC for a few years before their parents’ jobs were transferred elsewhere, I got to spend the bulk of my childhood in Egypt. I lived there for 12 years – from age 4 to 7 and then again from age 10 to 18. So many amazing memories. I watched the school go from what we called the “pre-fabs” to a school with a pool, a real track, and several new buildings. I could not believe the amazing changes when I went back in 2000. Especially the theater building. Fantastic! By now it must be unreal.”
Johnson also shared with us the small meaningful memories like the smell of Freshly baked “Baladi” bread she used to buy from a cart. She explained that during her time here, she felt very safe walking anywhere and staying out late.
“CAC had a profound impact on my career. It all started when I entered a talent contest in 5th grade, and later took choir with Barbara Wymore and Melanie VonSprecken and drama with Debbie Fintak. Those teachers prepared me for a life in theater and music. From Hello Dolly and Bye Bye Birdie to The Crucible and On Golden Pond and many more shows, I learned to sightread, to act, and to be resilient and prepared for anything. The lessons I learned at CAC about self-empowerment, pursuing excellence, and persisting through trials and tribulations are evident throughout all of my shows and my original music. These are themes that drive my life and my art. I call myself a “motivational singer”, and CAC gave me a spark that I try to pay forward at every performance. I cannot imagine a better way to grow up,” she further added.