Donald “Ski” Johnson was born in Silver Springs Maryland, Johnson’s family knew the importance of education along with aspiring his musical gift. After his formative education Johnson attended the Historic Howard University and followed that experience with attending the Virginia Commonwealth University.
The gifted saxophonist from Washington, Has composed songs like “Follow the Rainbow” and “A Message to Miles,” (a tribute to Miles Davis). He’s even got albums like In Your Eyes and Ski’s Supreme.
Johnson performs with a seven-piece ensemble of musicians. Together with his band, he has toured all over the world with musicians like Lionel Hampton, Alyson Williams, the Harper Brothers, Lo-Key, Freddie Jackson, Patti LaBelle, Brian McKnight, Tony Terry, and more.
He compares himself to legendary saxophonists Grover Washington Jr., Gerald Albright, Najee, and George Howard.
In 2015, Johnson was convicted of wire fraud and sentenced to five years’ probation, including six months of house arrest. He reportedly misrepresented himself and defrauded the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization of Gallatin County, Montana.
Charitable organizations allege that Johnson contacted them under the alias, Kevin Wright. Posing as Wright, he’d say that he was Johnson’s manager and a Sony Records rep.
“Wright” offered a performance by “Grammy-nominated” jazz artist Ski Johnson at the celebrity fundraiser held at the popular Big Sky Resort. In exchange, the organizers would pay for Johnson’s travel, lodging, green fees, and other expenses.
The resort had partnered with Big Brothers Big Sisters for a charity golf tournament in July 2012.
“Wright” also told the organizers that Johnson would offer two Grammy tickets for auction at the event. Half of the proceeds would go to his own charity, The Jazz for Life Foundation and the other half to Big Brothers Big Sisters.
Jazz for Life is reportedly a children’s cancer foundation Johnson started after losing both his parents to cancer.
The tickets were auctioned off at a bid of $6,000. But Big Brothers Big Sisters stopped the transaction after they found out about Johnson’s real identity and the scam he had going on.
According to court records, The Jazz for Life Foundation took in and spent around $150,000 between September 2010 and December 2013. But the money was allegedly used for Johnson’s personal expenses, including mortgage payments, groceries, and alcohol.
In one instance, he promised the attendance of numerous celebrities for a black-tie charity gala, for which he set up a PayPal account. The account raked in about $14,000 in proceeds before Johnson “canceled” the event.
The Jazz for Life Foundation is still shown as active on Johnson’s website and his Instagram still claims that he’s a five-time Grammy-nominated artist. However, he was never nominated for a Grammy.
He’s currently the CEO of SJ Enterprises in Washington. It is a branding and marketing firm that services talent and product brands globally.
He also has a line of jazz-inspired golf apparel and casual wear.
The jazz artist launched an Indiegogo campaign to raise $65,000 to make a documentary on himself titled Jazz for Life. The campaign was closed after raising $60.00 towards that goal.
But it appears that Johnson produced his documentary anyway! He shared on social media that the first official trailer of Jazz for Life will drop on August 5.
We probably won’t be seeing anything about his wire fraud conviction in it. Jazz for Life is pegged as “the story of a Saxophonist who discovered the power of marketing and how to maneuver through the good, the bad and the hidden dangers to create success.”
Johnson received a flurry of response to the documentary’s announcement, and not the positive kind. He has, however, responded to the haters with gratitude and called them his “greatest fans.”