Growing up as an introvert, Dwan Hayes found solace in her father’s album collection.
“I’d get my homework done and listen to my father’s old albums — old jazz, Parliament-Funkadelic — and it got me curious about his other albums. I went back further and got into big band music.”
Music provided Hayes, a Winston-Salem native, with direction while helping her conquer her shyness. Earlier this year, she found herself on stage at Madison Square Garden at the 60th annual Grammy Awards, singing backup for Sam Smith.
That’s quite a journey for the 2002 graduate of Reynolds High School who was once told by a teacher that her voice wasn’t good enough to pursue music.
“The way I am, no is not an option,” she said. “It was like, ‘Well, why am I not good enough?’ I knew I had the voice.”
Hayes studied music at UNC Pembroke and after graduation, came home to work in regional theater while working as a hostess at Macaroni Grill. Eventually, she decided she needed to make a big move to get some of the principal roles she craved.
She recently played Mary Magdalene in the production of “Jesus Christ Superstar” at the Surflight Theatre in Beach Haven, N.J., and will play Oda Mae Brown in “Ghost The Musical” at the Stage Door Theatre in Lauderhill, Fla.
The connections she made in the New York area led to her Grammy gig with Smith, one of the most popular singers today. Hayes she got a bit nervous during rehearsal, seeing seats reserved for Beyonce, Jay-Z and Sting.
“You have your panic moment, but everyone is a professional, and you go on and do your thing,” Hayes said.
There was no chance for Hayes to bask in the glow. The next morning, she got up and flew to Clarksville, Tenn., to perform in “A Raisin in the Sun.”
Local audiences can see Hayes at “Showtune — Holiday Edition,” opening Nov. 30 in the Mountcastle Forum black box at the Milton Rhodes Center for the Arts. Presented by the 40+ Stage Company, the show is a family-friendly musical revue with more than 25 holiday and seasonal numbers from Broadway shows and the movies.
The show will feature four singers, including Hayes.
“I wanted to be home for the holidays,” she said. “I’ve missed a lot of Thanksgivings, and that’s very important to my family.”
Q: How would you describe your art?
Answer: I would describe myself as a performer who can interpret her craft through music (voice) dance and acting.
Q: How have you evolved as an artist?
Answer: By taking that outside the box, out of my comfort zone.
Q: Who has influenced your art?
Answer: Basically old school music artist from 1920s-1980s. Watching Turner classic movies, watching the legendary actors, but most importantly my parents.
Q: What is your biggest challenge?
Answer: To give my best performance every night.
Q: What does art do for you?
Answer: It expresses what I am feeling, be it personal or professional.
Q: Any advice for other artists?
Answer: Never stop doing your craft, and always challenge yourself.