Kaijeh Johnson, a senior Vocal Performance and Music Education double major, loves being at the confluence of his three passions: performance, education, and activism.
Johnson is president of the Black Student Union and diversity and inclusion co-chair for the Peabody General Assembly. Now, as the winner of a $5,000 Peabody Launch grant, he has turned his triple calling into Second Movement, a free educational resource he created for Black high school and college students interested in the music world.
His inspiration for the all-virtual Second Movement — secondmovement.org goes live in December 2021, with plans for future curricular resources — was sparked during a grant writing course that is part of Peabody’s Breakthrough Curriculum, which focuses on musician leadership, career development, and citizen artistry.
“We used the Launch grant as our case study, and at the end of class, my professor recommended that I apply with my Second Movement concept,” Johnson says. “Figuring out Second Movement put me into drive mode about what I want to do with my life. I want to combine all that I love to do — diversity and activism with my love for teaching and performing classical music.”
Since age 14, the Manhattan native has been a teacher’s aide at a Harlem preschool. “The kids are sponges for knowledge, but it’s sad to have them lack resources,” he says. “I want to bring classical music to students with a face that looks like them. Black musicians are not just jazz artists.”
Second Movement’s website will include a database of master classes by experts of color and videos of Black artists offering performance tips and musical techniques. “When I was in high school, I wished that I was introduced to and taught different genres of music by Black male teachers,” says Johnson, who took his first ever private vocal lessons when he arrived at Peabody Institute as a freshman. “Studies show that it’s beneficial to have a teacher who looks like you, so you can better see yourself succeeding.”
“A lot of Black classical musicians feel ‘imposter syndrome,’ like they don’t belong,” he continues. “It was life-changing for me at Peabody to see Carl DuPont sing and Joseph Young conduct.”
Johnson has begun raising awareness about Second Movement within the Maryland educational community and with diversity-focused groups. Inspiring the next generation of Black artists is teaching him a thing or two: “As an educator, you need to be aware of how your students learn. Every student needs to feel loved, heard, and understood, and music is one of the best vessels to touch souls and hearts.”
“I’ve also learned that activism isn’t just saying that you are an activist but in how you live your life every day,” Johnson says. “Walking the walk is difficult but worth it.”