Johanna Beekman wrote her first song when she was 9. That song became the theme for a video created by her extended family in Corvallis, Oregon. She did her first solo performance at 10—a benefit for a children’s charity in which she performed John Lennon’s Imagine. By the time she was 20 she had released a psychedelic folk-soul album with the multi-generational group Wonderlust; studied with singer/songwriters Chris Williamson and Tret Fure, jazz singer Rhiannon, and rhythm-master Keith Terry; performed in musical theatre, rock and world-beat bands, gospel and women’s community choirs, improvisational acting and singing troupes, short and feature-length films, and countless festivals, benefit concerts, rallies, clubs, coffee houses, colleges, and universities.
When Johanna recorded Stolen Grace, her first CD of original music, she was also performing with Oyaya, a world-beat band that included her father George. The two Beekmans had been in several rock and folk bands during her teenage years. Oyaya served as the backup band for many of the tracks on Stolen Grace.
Johanna’s singing and songwriting had taken a giant leap forward by the time she recorded her second CD, If I Could Fly in 2006. The genre-busting album included stylistic nods to pop, folk, rock, electronica, a cappella, gospel, and classic soul. With a stellar supporting cast that included Halie Loren, Dave Trenkel, Suzannah Doyle, John Shipe, Neal Gladstone, Audrey Perkins, Barbara Gladstone, Laura Brophy, Ann Grabe, Brendan DeCaster, Alan Studley, Peter Argyres, J.D. Monroe, Luke Thomas, Betty Busch, Johanna’s brother Ben, and the a cappella group Absolute, Johanna recorded an album that was at the same time intimate and expansive.
One of the songs from that album, Free to Decide (Breathe), became a staple in the repertoires of Absolute and Jubilate Women’s Choir. The song has since been performed by several choirs and a cappella groups in the United States and Canada.
After the release of If I Could Fly, Johanna extensively toured the Pacific Northwest with friend and musical collaborator Lyris Cooper. They were often joined by other musicians, including Johanna’s father George and Lyris’s mother Suzannah Doyle. Johanna wrote many of her best songs during those years, but her busy schedule kept her from finding time to record them.
The economic crash of 2008 forced many of Johanna’s favorite venues to close or eliminate live music from their offerings. Johanna scaled back her music career, taking on other projects and pursuits. In early 2012 she became a certified yoga teacher and started singing kirtan, the sacred music of yoga. Johanna’s first exposure to kirtan had come a decade earlier when her father was asked to do sound for a Krishna Das/Ram Das retreat at Breitenbush Hot Springs and she joined him. The opportunity to learn from such great teachers was instrumental in her development on levels that, at the time, were unknown to her. That retreat planted a seed that blossomed with Johanna’s yoga practice.
In late 2012 Johanna was rear-ended by a drunk driver near her Portland, Oregon home. The pain from her injuries brought most of her life to a standstill. Fortunately, it didn’t hurt to sing. So George, Lyris, and Johanna decided it was time to record the best of Johanna’s songs from the prolific period before the accident. They recruited pianist Suzannah Doyle, guitarist Sid Rosen, saxophonist Peter Argyres, cellist Nancy Sowdon, singer Audrey Perkins, audio wizard Dave Trenkel, and Johanna’s guitarist uncle Larry Beekman to provide a luscious musical backdrop for Johanna’s creative vocalizations.
The Edge of Divine includes several of her most beautiful and inspiring original songs, plus a handful of creative interpretations of well-loved pop, jazz, and traditional songs. One of the most touching pieces on the album, Dark Blue, was written by Corvallis songwriter Neal Gladstone. Johanna has loved the song since she was a child, and she was thrilled to have the opportunity to put it on her album.
Johanna has almost completely recovered from her accident. She attributes much of her healing to yoga and kirtan—the sacred music of yoga. Her regular kirtan practice has evolved into one of her main activities as a musician; she now leads kirtan events at community gatherings and festivals in dozens of cities and towns. Her original kirtan interweaves traditional mantras and English descants with haunting melodies over polyrthythmic textures from around the world. Throughout her recovery Johanna also spent hours doing restorative yoga—a type of yoga that emphasizes ease over effort. She now combines yoga with singing in her unique Lullaby Yoga classes, where she sings to her students while guiding them through a sequence of relaxing, therapeutic restorative poses. Johanna is also the musical heart of RhythmAsana, a unique blend of yoga, movement meditation, dance, and world music.
Johanna still finds the time to perform her old favorite songs at benefits, concerts, and festivals. But her primary focus is recording and sharing her original kirtan music.
In 2014 she began recording Hearta Beats One, an album of her most requested spiritual songs and chants. During the same period she sang and played at workshops and festivals. Her singing and songwriting caught the attention of several luminaries in the global kirtan community. Many of these artists—Ben Leinbach, Benji Wertheimer, Jaya Lakshmi, Ananda, Gina Sala, Daniel Paul, Girish, and more—agreed to sing and play on the album. The collaboration of these artists with a top-notch production team headed by Johanna has resulted in an almost unbelievably beautiful tapestry of sound and spirit. Since the release of the album Johanna has been sharing the joy on multiple tours. The journey continues….
Johanna’s music is available at cdbaby.com/Artist/JohannaBeekman and on iTunes, Amazon, and Google Play. For wholesale orders, contact us using the link on our Contact page.
For more about Johanna’s recovery from the auto accident and the recording of The Edge of Divine, see this article in the Corvallis Gazette Times.