For many artists and performers, COVID-19 has stalled their artistry. That is, if they let it. Aprina Johnson is one who won't allow that to happen -- and she also wants to help communities manage the pressure of getting through quarantine with a welcome distraction. And a reason to smile.
“It’s innate for me to be an outreach person,” said the local singer.
Johnson was used to having several paid gigs around Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. Since the pandemic, the gigs aren't necessarily paid, but she is still commanding an audience across the city. The performances aren't indoors in front of a crowd. Instead, they're outdoors in front of neighbors. She calls it "Sidewalk Shenanigans." Johnson sees it as a way to connect people on their residential streets, even during social distancing.
“I realized that people are hanging out on their porches. They’re hanging out of their windows. They’re sitting on their lawns. They’re yelling at each other across the street talking,” Johnson said. “So I was like, I could be a middle person, throw my music equipment right there and then just sing.”
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So, that's what she does. With help from her family, she lugs her amplifiers and microphone out to various residential streets and belts out songs that are either familiar or original. Like Ben E. King's "Stand by Me," or her own new song, "One of these Days."
“The feedback has been amazing. And, people are asking me to return back to their street. I’m like, 'You might get tired of it.' They’re like, 'No,'” she said.
Johnson said she initially tried doing virtual online concerts like some other artists have done. But that didn't work for her. She needed something more personal.
“My professional work, that’s what I do. I’m always out mingling all across neighborhoods from Cincinnati to Northern Kentucky,” she said. “I woke up one morning and I was like, I should do this. My music equipment is collecting dust!”
Several of her performances have been on residential streets in Price Hill. She said she wants to leave residents with a feeling of normal. Music does that.
“People want to go back. They want to be in a moment where they can think about the future, think about how they can exist once this quarantine is fully lifted,” she said.
She sees it as a way to lift spirits in times of uncertainty.
“All your beliefs and all your hurt and all your pain is like thrown out the window and you realize you’re around people who are very similar to you,” said Johnson.
She says she does accept tips. But it doesn't have to be money.
“I’m homeschooling my kids right now. I’m currently out of work. So, definitely donate whatever you feel at the moment," she said. "They’ve given me books and stuff and I was like, yes! Thank you! I appreciate that!”
As for what she'll do once people are able to move around more freely, she thinks she'll keep the sidewalk singing going.
“I see this going on after quarantine,“ Johnson said.