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Dylan Jenet Collins

Posted on 26 September 2008

The triple threat from Sag Harbor who has graced Broadway stages, is currently filming her first movie and sang for Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama at the Democratic National Convention in Denver.

 

You have quite a hefty resume for a 10 year-old. When did you first start performing?

I started singing at police and community events when I was about five years old. My parents are both retired detectives from the Suffolk County Police Department and they have always been involved in community work. We moved to Sag Harbor in 2003. Soon after that, I joined the Southampton Ballet and performed for [the Children’s Museum of the East End]. My first professional performance was in the musical “Once on This Island” at the Bay Street Theater in 2004.

 

Who are your greatest influences?

I’m lucky to have so many great influences inside and outside my family. I really respect the careers and how supportive my parents are. I don’t think I would ever go into law enforcement but I sure wouldn’t mind playing a cop on film one day. My parents probably would rather me choose a different type of career to go into because of the risks in show business. They make sure I don’t do too much and always have time for school, family, friends and my other hobbies. College is a total must too and I’m sure I’ll study music. I’m really close to my Grandpa Clarence who is a war veteran too. I’ve been trained by and worked with a lot of great people along the way.  Mr. Ray Chew, my music mentor has really helped me grow as a musician. He has worked with or trained some of my favorites like Alicia Keys and Stevie Wonder.  

 

In addition to performances in a number of theatre productions, you were cast as Young Nala in Disney’s “The Lion King.” How did the audition for the role come to you and what was it like to perform in one of Broadway’s most successful musicals?

I auditioned for the role of Young Nala several times before I finally got the part. I was a little too short for the part when I first auditioned but I kept trying. I was up against thousands of girls and there were only six slots in the whole country. Disney had three Lion King companies in the country when I was selected – Broadway, Gazelle and Cheetah. I toured nationally in the Gazelle Company for about seven months. I worked with an amazing cast and was able to go to so many great cities across the country. It was really big but super cool! I hope it continues to stay around and I’ll get lucky enough to play Adult Nala one day.

 

What play has been your favorite to perform in?

I don’t really feel like I can pick a favorite musical that I’ve been in yet. I love “Once on This Island” for being my first professional experience and I’m still close to that cast and all the people at Bay Street Theater. Of course “Lion King” was awesome! Playing Zuzu in “A Wonderful Life” for the Actors’ Fund with Tony winners Brian Stokes Mitchell playing my dad and Phylicia Rashad playing my grandmother was amazing. This past summer I was asked to be an original cast member in a new musical being developed by director John Mercurio called “Myth” at the O’Neill Theater Center in Connecticut. I got to work with “Jersey Boys,” Tony winner, John Lloyd Young and another great cast. My character Grace is the biggest and most challenging role I ever had. I’m the only kid in the cast and I have an extremely strong acting and singing role. I can definitely see “Myth” becoming my favorite musical because of the character I get the opportunity to portray.

 

You won Showtime at the Apollo, quite a feat at your age. What was it like performing in that historic space?

Winning the Apollo Theater’s Star of Tomorrow Award is my proudest accomplishment as a singer. I was honored with and performed at the gala with people who are total legends such as Gladys Knight, Angela Bassett, Courtney Vance, Little Richard, Ruby Dee, and Chris Tucker. I’ll never forget spending time with and getting advice from Gladys Knight and her brother Bubba Knight backstage and at rehearsals. It was so inspiring!

 

We hear you are currently working on a film. How did you break into film and what is the movie about?

This is my first film role and I’m playing the character Janet. The film is called “The Children of Hip Hop” directed by Antonio De La Cruz. The film is about the music and culture of hip-hop and how it influences the lives of three main characters both negatively and positively. The setting is in the South Bronx and the story centers around a troubled teen who loves hip hop but has many negative people and situations in his life, an actress/dance instructor who recently lost her mother and wants to give back to the students of dance in her community and a music producer who is a political activist that finds a group of teens committed to doing the type of music he wants to produce.

 

You wrote a song for presidential candidate Barack Obama called “Change for Obama.” What inspired you to write the song?

My family and friends are all supporters of Senator Barack Obama. I was working on another project with Antarctic Productions and two of their musicians gave me music to what is now my song, “Change.” I just thought about how Senator Obama inspired me and I came up with the lyrics and melody off of the top of my head in the studio after I heard the music for the very first time. I’ve only been learning to writing songs and lyrics for a couple of years. Writing my own songs still feels so new to me. Like so many other people I think that just listening to Senator Obama’s message forces you to feel like things can and should be better.  When I performed in the musical “Myth” this summer, a Senator Obama staffer, actor Paul Oakley Stovall played my dad. Mr. Stovall only left the campaign trail to perform in “Myth” and then returned when we finished the readings. I thought about what the odds were that I ended up working with someone on Senator Obama’s campaign. Talking to Mr. Stovall about his campaign experiences was so helpful that I even worked on “Change” a little more while I was in Connecticut and not at the theater. I recently put “Change” on myspace.com/dylanjenetcollins. My parents later contacted Suffolk County Legislator Jon Cooper, the Long Island Chair of Obama for America and passed on the song to him. Legislator Cooper asked me to perform “Change” at future Obama events this fall.

 

What was it like performing for Obama in Denver during the convention? Did he impart any words of wisdom to you?

If my luck couldn’t get any better, my music mentor, Ray Chew was asked to be the Musical Director for the Democratic Convention and I was off to Denver with my parents. I was asked to perform at the Pepsi Center on day one of the Democratic National Convention with the Ray Chew Orchestra. The DNC wanted specific songs to be performed there that the audience would be really familiar with. So instead of performing “Change,” I sang “No One” by Alicia Keys and later sang “All I Do” by Stevie Wonder … I had watched some archive footage from past conventions with my family and I feel so honored that I was actually able to be a part of such a historic event. My parents and I also went to Invesco Field to hear Senator Obama’s speech on the last day of the convention. There are really no words to describe how it felt to be there for it live. It was electrifying. I’ve met many people from the campaign so far including Governor Howard Dean but I haven’t had the honor of meeting Senator Obama personally yet but I hope to soon. Senator Obama’s daughters are so sweet and kept waving to me backstage. Right now I just want Senator Obama to win and I’ll continue to sing whenever and wherever they ask me to.

 

What is next for Dylan Jenet Collins?

I’m enjoying sixth grade at Our Lady of the Hamptons and joined some fun activities there. I’ll still be working on the film and volunteering for the Obama campaign when I can this fall. Being a good big sister, daughter and friend are always important too. My little sister Samantha and I love to do karaoke at the restaurant Regulars. We had a ball there on her fifth birthday last weekend. My little brothers, Jacob and Morgan had fun with it too. None of my siblings perform professionally but they always help me out when I’m practicing for something and we all love to jam at home for fun. All I can see in advance is that I’ll try to fit in an audition here and there and continue practicing my music, acting and dance. I’m really looking forward to turning 11 years old in a few weeks too. Thanks so much for chatting with me. I’ve had a blast. 

 

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