Dwan Hayes


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 onstage at Madison Square Garden at the 60th annual Grammy Awards, singing backup for British pop singer Sam Smith.

That’s quite a journey for the 2002 graduate of Reynolds High School in Winston-Salem 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,” Hayes 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 a Macaroni Grill restaurant. 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. Hayes 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.”

Triad-area audiences can see Hayes in “Showtune Holiday Edition” in the Mountcastle Forum’s black box theater space at the Milton Rhodes Center for the Arts in Winston-Salem. Presented by the 40+ Stage Company, the show is a family-friendly musical revue with more than 25 holiday and seasonal numbers from movies and Broadway shows.

The revue features 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.”

How would you describe your art?

I would describe myself as a performer who can interpret her craft through music (voice), dance and acting.

How have you evolved as an artist?

By taking that outside the box, out of my comfort zone.

Who has influenced your art?

Basically, old-school music artists from the 1920s to 1980s. Watching Turner Classic Movies, watching the legendary actors, but most importantly my parents.

What is your biggest challenge?

To give my best performance every night.

What does art do for you?

It expresses what I am feeling, be it personal or professional.

Any advice for other artists?

Never stop doing your craft, and always challenge yourself.

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Lisa O’Donnell is a reporter for the Winston-Salem Journal who writes about artists — visual, musical, literary and more. Contact her at lodonnell@wsjournal .com or call 336-727-7420.