Young Cherokee singer releases music video about lost friend

Senior Reporter
04/22/2019 08:30 AM
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Preparing to take questions from the media are, from left, Miss McAlester Marra Juarez, who served as emcee of the “Heaven’s Window” video release, Cherokee Nation citizen Ava Rose Johnson, Sean Fuller, Lainey Edwards, Billy Dawson and James Rayner. Johnson helped create the song in honor of a deceased friend. D. SEAN ROWLEY/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Main Cherokee Phoenix
During her video release event, Ava Rose Johnson offers the crowd some ATV safety tips. Johnson’s song “Heaven’s Window” was written to remember her friend, Behr Place, who died in an ATV crash in 2017. D. SEAN ROWLEY/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Sean Fuller, who is the drummer for country duo Florida Georgia Line, was among the artists who helped write “Heaven’s Window.” D. SEAN ROWLEY/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
RED OAK – In southeastern Oklahoma, Red Oak residents on April 10 were treated to a pageant of country music celebrity, including a rising star from their ranks.

Cherokee Nation citizen Ava Rose Johnson, 12, was onstage for the release of the music video for her single, “Heaven’s Window,” which was shown before a large crowd inside the First Baptist Church Life Impact Center.

While the ceremony was intended to introduce the video, much of the focus was kept on the inspiration for Johnson’s song, written in remembrance of her friend, Behr Place, who died on March 13, 2017, in an ATV crash at age 10.

“People are gathered here because they were impacted by the love that Behr shared every day with everyone he knew or didn’t know,” said Johnson, whose eyes frequently swelled with tears as she spoke of her friend to the crowd, which included the Place family. “We knew him a short time, and look at the impact he made.”

Onstage with Johnson were country artists Lainey Edwards and Billy Dawson, Florida Georgia Line drummer Sean Fuller and videographer James Rayner.

Johnson wrote the song with the help of Fuller, Dawson and Edwards, all of who performed “Heaven’s Window” with Johnson at the release. Dawson sang a couple of songs and spoke to the crowd, while Johnson added her rendition of the gospel hymn “How Great Thou Art.”

“I’ve seen a lot of different artists. I’ve never seen a girl at 12 years old with pipes like hers,” Fuller said.

Johnson already has some national exposure, including an appearance on Good Morning America. But it was during Dawson’s “Nashville to New Mexico” event in Eagles Nest, New Mexico, that he met Johnson. He invited her to Nashville in January to write a song, and she expressed her wish to Dawson, Edwards and Fuller to write a song about Behr.

The song, along with some other projects developed by Dawson for Johnson, involved a three-day recording session totaling more than 40 hours, and Rayner, a filmmaker with international credits, shot the video.

“It was a complete pleasure to work with Ava,” Dawson said after the recording session. “She is so talented and hard working. I met her a few years ago whenever they were opening for my ‘Nashville to New Mexico’ event and her voice just blew me away. I knew that we would be working together at some point. She is definitely on the right path.”

Johnson has also been named the year’s outstanding performer at the American Kids Dale Awards and took first place in her age bracket at the 2017 National Competition in Branson, Missouri, in the musical theater group, gospel, solo vocal, musical theater, country and gospel categories. She also won gold with honors in gospel, music theater, music theater group and solo vocal.

She has been singing since age 4 with Oklahoma Kids, which counts Brian White, Carrie Underwood, Kristen Chenowith and Blake Shelton as alumni.

Her GMA appearance arose when she was with Oklahoma Kids at age 10 in New York City. The group had priority seating for the Labor Day taping. When she told an announcer she was from Oklahoma, he challenged her to sing the Rodgers and Hammerstein song.

Johnson so impressed the announcer, he stood her before the anchors and asked what song she would sing if auditioning for “American Idol.” She belted out “Broadway Baby” and got a standing ovation.

Clips of Johnson and the “Heaven’s Window” video are on Facebook @avarosejohnsonmusic.
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