July, 2019 — Remember that moment in school that terrified you? For Dawn Anthony, it was Black History Month in 4th grade. The students were asked to form groups, pick a famous figure and do a presentation. After choosing sides like a pickup baseball game, quiet shy Dawn stood alone as a group of one.
Music surrounded Dawn at home, so she naturally chose to rummage through her mom’s record collection to make her choice, raided her mother’s closet to look the part, and prepared. As Dawn walked to class that day, she heard laughter following her through the halls. She was last to present. Standing in the front, Dawn turned her album cover over to show the class and they laughed again. She cleared her throat, and then started to sing. “The more I sang the less they laughed. That was the moment I knew I didn’t have to be popular, pretty, or wealthy. I had something special.” In 4th grade, Dawn discovered the voice, the inner strength, and the nurturing nature you see in her today.
An inner spirituality and a connection to the audience are two things you won’t miss when you hear Dawn Anthony sing. Her original experience was in gospel and musical theater, and training in classical. Yet her style and approach led her to hone in on jazz.
Dawn sites several jazz mentors well known to JazzArts Charlotte and our students. Some time ago, as she was working with Lovell Bradford on songs and keys, she recalls him saying something that hit a chord for her. “He said to me, Dawn, when you sing, I don’t want you to sing a song, I want you to create an experience.” Applying that to her music, Dawn continues, “As a singer I love words. I can sing it how I’m feeling it at the moment. The song may hit me differently. Jazz gives me that flexibility.”
This is part of what draws Dawn to the music of Nancy Wilson. “She could tell a story. It’s like you were a girlfriend and she was having an intimate conversation with you. That’s what I want to bring to the table to the JAZZ ROOM.”
Born in Philadelphia and raised in Georgia, Dawn came to Charlotte to raise her daughters and complete her music studies at Queens University of Charlotte. Dawn always envisioned herself a performer and settled in Charlotte for her career. As an adult in college, she was offered a role with Community for Schools teaching young new parents who were struggling to continue their education. “I met them and fell in love with teaching and with them. I’ve been teaching ever since.”
Dawn applies her message and voice in yet another way. She wrote a children’s book several years ago titled “The Gift Way Up In The Closet.” Stemming from the literal nature of one of her own girls, this story follows a little girl named Melody who is searching the house for her most important “gift” and finally discovers that the gift is inside her. Recently, this book was revised into a musical, and it will see its debut performance this Saturday July 6 at the Fullwood Theater in Matthews.
With this busy and varied musician career, Dawn Anthony continues to bring us the message that bloomed in her in 4th grade. “That’s my spiritual side. I’m not promised the next moment. So I want to make ever one count.”
Don’t miss Dawn Anthony this month in the JAZZ ROOM.