Yolanda Drake, who recently won the opportunity to sing the national anthem at Dayton Dragons Opening Day, radiates joy and passion for what she does. The Middletown native uplifts her community with both her work and her voice.
Drake’s daytime job is an FSS Coordinator at Greater Dayton Premier Management in the Family Self-Sufficiency Department. She helps Dayton residents by connecting them to the local services to improve their education, find employment to put them on the path to financial stability and help first time homeowners.
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Drake is also a graduate of The Neighborhood Leadership Institute (NLI). The NLI is an annual 14-week program that educates and trains Dayton residents for current or future leadership opportunities in the city and community by expanding their knowledge of Dayton, city government and community.
But that’s not all Drake has to offer her community. Drake and her husband of nearly 26 years Lamar (Marty) have a band, Live Your Dream. They’ve opened for national acts and performed at pre-games all over the nation.
Drake shared with me a story that she says defines, “Why I sing!”
“We (LYD) were performing at an event here in Dayton for an organization. After our performance, a lady came up to me and said ‘I just want you to know I wasn’t coming to this event tonight, but I’m glad I did.’ She commenced to tell me she had recently lost her husband, and hadn’t been out since. But something made her come anyway — and even after she got there she was going to leave after the program. Well, we started to perform and she was already out in the hallway ready to go, but she heard me start to sing and she turned back. The song I was singing was her and her husband’s song. She came back in and had tears in her eyes, but it was good tears and she ended up staying the whole night and had a great time!” Drake said.
I spoke with Drake about her life, inspiration and memories of performing. Get to know our Daytonian of the Week:
Tell us about your life growing up in the Dayton area.
I was born and raised right down the road in Middletown, Ohio. I’m a graduate of Middletown High School (The Mighty Middies!). Through my middle school years, I was a cheerleader for basketball and football. In high school, I was on the drill team and in the marching band. I lived in a neighborhood they called Cloverdale — my street was a very nice street with good neighbors and lots of kids to play with.
Tell us a little about your band and entertainment business LYD.
My husband and I have a band called LYD-Live Your Dream. We have been performing together for around 28 years. In those years, we have traveled to different cities and states to perform like: Atlanta, Virginia, Detroit, Chicago, Indianapolis, Columbus, Kentucky, Cincinnati, Toledo, Akron, Lima, Middletown and of course Dayton. My husband is the backbone of the band. He started the band and handles all the bookings and the business.
If you could change/improve one thing about Dayton, what would that be?
Well, there is something that I would like to see happen. I would like to see music come back and be a part of the school curriculum. Like music class, where you can learn how to play the flute. When I was in school, it was a class everyone had to take. In high schools they had a marching band. A lot of the inner city schools don’t have this anymore. I feel this is needed because the children need to use their creative energy. I feel with music back in the schools, grades would be better, and kids would be more attentive. If they find something they love like playing the piano, they would focus on that and it would keep them busy.
What do you find most inspiring about Dayton?
The entertainment that has come out of Dayton. I’m in entertainment and I looked at who and what bands even professional ball players that came out of Dayton. It was quite a few and that was inspiring to me as a singer.
What’s your favorite thing to do in Dayton? Favorite place to eat? Favorite shop?
I love going to Riverscape to the summer series concerts they have. Which I have performed at quite a few of them. I remember performing when they first started having performances at Riverscape before they had the big Pavilion. We (LYD) will be performing there this summer on Friday, Aug. 17, 2018. I love all the festivals they have here in Dayton. One of my favorite places to eat is Thai 9. I love the Thai 9 rice — so good!
How are you preparing for your performance of the National Anthem at the Dayton Dragon’s Opening Day?
I’m sooooo excited to be singing for the Dayton Dragons Opening Day. Another thing I’ve always wanted to do (Sing the National Anthem at a big sporting event). When I auditioned I didn’t know that over 200 people were auditioning. So, needless to say when I got the call that I had overall, I was through the roof! The past few weeks have been a whirlwind with articles and interviews and TV appearances and I’m loving it!!!! I just want to do my best for the Dragons Opening Day. To do that, I’m trying to stay healthy. The weather now gets my sinuses going, so I have to make sure I’m in good voice. Before I sing, if I’m alone or with my band, I always say a prayer asking that we all be on one accord, have a great show, anoint my voice and if there is anyone out there that I can help with a song even if it’s one person — then my job is done.
“Music is a universal language; it’s therapeutic and music is much needed in our lives,” said Drake.
Yolanda Drake will sing the national anthem in front of a sell-out crowd April 7th at Fifth Third Field.