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2012 Graduate Gena Johnson Assists on Grammy-Nominated Album

Johnson was first graduate of Department of Music's audio specialist degree program.

Minnesota State University, Mankato Department of Music News Release, 3-15-2016

Contact: Dale Haefner

MANKATO, Minn. – Gena Johnson (BS, Audio Production Specialist), a 2012 Minnesota State University, Mankato Department of Music graduate, was an assistant engineer on Kacey Musgraves’ Grammy-nominated album, "Pageant Material". In addition to the Grammy nod in the “Best Country Album” category at the 58th Grammy Awards in February, the album also made numerous “Best Albums of 2015” in various categories.

Johnson (pictured) says, “Being part of a team like the one that was put together for Kacey Musgraves' record, Pageant Material, has been one of my favorite memories thus far since I've been in Nashville. When I first heard the demo for the album, with just an acoustic guitar and pilot vocal, I knew this record was different.”

The studio has recorded many great legends in its time and today’s contemporary artists continue the tradition. The studio has produced many award winning hits over the years including Dolly Parton's "Jolene" and "I Will Always Love You," Eddy Arnold's "Make the World Go Away," Willie Nelson classics, and Waylon Jennings hits. Other superstars that have recorded in the space include Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Alison Krauss, The Beach Boys, Ben Folds, Kacey Musgraves’ first and second album, Hank Williams Jr., Lionel Richie, Keith Urban, Miranda Lambert, Tony Bennett, and Chris Stapleton’s CMA Record of the Year award winning album, "Traveler."  

When asked if she expected this level of success and prestige to occur so quickly after graduating from Minnesota State Mankato in 2012, Gena Johnson replied, “I didn’t have many expectations for what was ahead of me at all. This new path I walked on was completely uncharted territory. I would have never dreamed of the opportunities that I have had since graduating college and moving to Nashville just four years ago. I believe that things happen for a reason and when push comes to shove we either sink or we float. Even when things are tough and I feel like I’ve been pushed to the limit, I’ve gotten up everyday and put in the time, always with a smile on my face.”

Johnson’s typical workweek varies a lot. Some weeks she can be working everyday and night with limited hours of sleep and other weeks she will have two days off in a row. The most Johnson has worked without a day off was close to three months, all different projects within that time period. Usually on the days off, called studio “down days,” Johnson attends to technical and equipment issues encountered during sessions throughout the week. If she is unable to fix specific equipment problems, she will call a technician with more experience to fix the issue or guide her through the repair. “Each day is a learning experience, which is a bonus of the occupation in my eyes,” says Johnson.

Gena Johnson grew up singing at her hometown church, Grace Lutheran in Mankato. She has always had a passion for singing, performing in grade school, high school and college choirs. In addition to being a major part of the Nashville music scene, Johnson wants to be able to impact and connect with people through music in other ways. “I’ve slowly started to write songs and learn how to play acoustic guitar in my off time. Fortunately and unfortunately, there hasn’t been much off time available,” Johnson remarked. She goes on to say, “I get the notion that the majority of people who get into some aspect of music as their career hold a personal flame in their heart as to why they want to be around it. Music has always been something that connects people. Whether it’s an instrumental track, full orchestral performance, someone on the side of the street performing with an old beat-up guitar or the best rock record you have ever heard, if it evokes emotion, that emotion undoubtedly connects to someone else. I want to be able to impact and connect with people through music.”

Gena Johnson is a Mankato native, graduating from Mankato East High School in 2008. Her parents are Mike and Lisa Johnson from Mankato. Gena Johnson was the first graduate of the Department of Music’s audio specialist degree program, a multi-discipline degree offered in conjunction with Hennepin Technical College in Eden Prairie, Minn.

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