Dennis Day’s lifelong passion has been to bring stories and audiences together through his work as singer, educator, human services leader, writer, and filmmaker. These broad experiences led him in 2003 to create and incorporate D-Day Media Group.
Dennis’s musical career is rooted in his experiences as a youth in America’s industrial Midwest heartland. Growing up in East Chicago, Indiana, early musical influences included his family (his mother Irene Day was a highly esteemed gospel singer), church, and music education programs throughout his schooling from elementary to high school to Fisk University to the Manhattan School of Music.
An earlier path to interscholastic sports was upended when Dennis’s high school coach learned that he’d had rheumatic fever as a child. Sensing his deep disappointment, his parents encouraged him to focus on the music talent he had displayed from an early age, and on acquiring a college education. So Dennis organized acapella and Doo-Wop groups, singing wherever he could find an audience – under neighborhood streetlights, in festivals, dance halls, sock hops, and talent shows. His groups performed at Gary Roosevelt High School’s storied annual talent show, which produced the likes of Avery Brooks, Deniece Williams, Pookie Hudson and the Spaniels, William Warfield, and most notable of all, the Jackson Five.
Throughout high school and for more than a year after, Dennis worked in a steel mill and performed in local venues in Northwest Indiana and Chicago’s South Side. His earliest high school group, the Valiants (one of the area’s few racially integrated ensembles), sang in the period style depicted later by his schoolmate Steve Tesiche in a school dance scene in the film Four Friends. The Valiants also auditioned for Ted Mack’s nationally televised Amateur Hour and sang weekly for the commercial breaks on the Gary Crusader Newspaper’s radio program. After Dennis left to attend college, the Valiants went on to record for the Steeltown label.
Inspired by the Civil Rights Movement and student activism for social justice, Dennis enrolled in Fisk University in Nashville, home of the Fisk Jubilee Singers, who introduced the world to American Black music in the form of Negro Spirituals. Dennis sang with the University Choir and on a choir tour he performed a tenor duet under the baton of Eugene Ormandy, conductor of the Philadelphia Philharmonic Orchestra.
At the end of his freshman year, Dennis won a talent show for which the prize was an extended engagement at Nashville’s Club Baron – a jewel of a music venue on the Chitlin’ Circuit whose weekend house band was hosted by such greats as Jimmy Hendricks and his longtime bassist Billy Cox pre-Gypsy Band, Sam and Dave, Otis Redding, James Brown, Little Richard, Booker T, Rufus and Carla Thomas, Gladys Knight and the Pips, B.B. King, Billy Paul, and Miles Davis. For his performances, Dennis enlisted a back-up group of three local performers to form Dino and the Dynamics. They played weekends at the Baron to packed houses for several months until Fisk’s President James Lawson persuaded Dennis to abandon his flirtation with the Music City’s allures and focus on his studies.
Dennis remained in the University Choir, which recorded two albums during his time there. Although not singing regularly in Nashville clubs, Dennis continued to perform with the group, which had changed its name to The Jades and appeared at a variety of venues throughout the mid-South. The Jades were discovered by Nashville record producer Ted Jarrett and recorded a ballad, “My Loss Your Gain,” on the Poncello Label, with Dennis as lead. The song debuted on the Cash Box Top R & B chart nationwide, was distributed by Decca Records, and is now available on an award-winning CD, Music City Soul: From Nashville’s Black Cats – a best seller in the UK and Europe.
Dennis and his Fisk roommate, the late guitarist Frank “Silk” Smith, also recorded demo sessions on Nashville’s Music Row for Columbia Screen Gems and Capitol Records for Conway Twitty, Charlie Pride, Ricky Nelson, Joe Tex, and Ray Stevens, who wanted to hire Dennis and change his name to Travis Womack. Being under legal age, Dennis consulted his parents who staunchly refused to sign off on a name change and encouraged Dennis to complete his college education.
After college, Dennis continued to perform in Chicago, Washington DC, Philadelphia, and New York City, where he is currently based. The father of two daughters from his first marriage, he established a music publishing company, Alylela Music (a Harry Fox Agency Affiliate), and two record labels, D-Day Records and D-Day Media Records.
In the 1990s, Dennis released his first album on D-Day Records, Dennis Day For Only You, which includes four of his original songs, “Sunday Morning Sunshine,” “Away with Me,” “No One-Night Stand,” and “I’ll Go It Alone.”
In the ensuing decades, Dennis transitioned to Jazz performance and has sung with some of the finest talents in the Jazz world, including the Blackbyrds, Oscar Brown Jr., Clark Terry, Frank Foster, Dorothy Donegan, Lionel Hampton, Mercer Ellington, Herman Foster, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Art Porter Jr., Harold Maybern, Richard Wyands, Eddie Chamblee, Dennis Irwin, Valery Ponomerov, Melvin Sparks, Walter Perkins Jr., Harold Ousley, Billy Kaye, Bross Townsend, Scott Hamilton, Ernie Hayes, and Patience Higgins.
Dennis has re-recorded his original song “Sunday Morning Sunshine,” featuring Art Porter, Jr. and TK Blue, in both instrumental and vocal versions. His second album, All Things in Time, peaked at #39 nationwide in College Music Journal’s annual Jazz charts. The album features his original song “African Musing,” and includes songs from the Great American Song Book with performances by Wycliff Gordon, Stephon Harris, Danny Mixon, and John Dimartino and John Miller. Dennis’ jazz debut album, Dennis Day All Things in Time was presented The Grindie Award for Best in Jazz genre 2009 by RadioIndy the Internet Radio music aggregator.
In New York Dennis spent a year as a member of the Lance Haywood Singers. He studied at the Manhattan School of Music, and in private lessons with Dr. Michael Warren, Melba Joyce, Andrew Frierson, Jackie Paris, Dr. Richard Harper, Bob Stoloff, Anne Marie Ross, Nancy Mareno, and Miles Griffith. In 2007 Dennis was one of 12 finalists in New York’s annual Jazz Mobile Anheuser-Busch Best of the Best Jazz Vocal Competition. Currently, he is working on a third album, studying piano, and performing in a variety of venues.
Educator and Human Services Leader:
After earning his Bachelors degree from Fisk in sociology, Dennis was awarded a Ford Foundation Fellowship at the University of Chicago, where he earned a Master of Arts degree in Adult and Continuing Education. He worked as a Community Organizer for Illinois Police Community Relations with the Illinois Human Relations Department, and was appointed the state’s youngest certified Assistant Superintendent of Schools for the Illinois Department of Corrections. Dennis later served for one legislative session as Staff Analyst for the Illinois General Assembly Speaker of the House in Springfield, Illinois, where he was assigned to the Committee on Cities and Villages and also worked for members including Senator Harold Washington of Chicago, who later became Mayor.
Later, in Philadelphia, Dennis was Supervisor of School Extension Programs, where he worked with adult literacy, GED administration, a resettlement education project for Vietnamese refugees, and vocational and educational services to inmates in several Pennsylvania correctional facilities. He also was selected to serve on the regional Eastern Fulbright Fellowship selection Committee, and taught courses at Delaware Community and Technical College. Then, in Washington DC, he served as a consultant for a grant-funded think tank for criminal justice issues, Positive Futures, and supervised intake and training for juvenile wards of the state through Northern Virginia Community Services.
When he moved to New York City in the 1980s, Dennis taught middle school at I.S. 52, served for a year as Interim Director of the Boys Club of Harlem, and taught courses at the College of New Rochelle. He later served as Director of New York City’s Job TAP Center #1, an employment and training program in Brooklyn’s Bedford Stuyvesant area and is credited with helping lead the implementation of New York City’s first successful Welfare-to-Work Program. During that period he also served on the Board of Directors of the Brooklyn Plaza Medical Center.
In 1995, Dennis was appointed by New York Governor George E. Pataki as Director of Affirmative Action Programs for the state’s Department of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR), with oversight of Fair Housing, equal employment opportunity, and Minority/Women’s Business Contracts for all of New York’s 62 counties. There, he aptly changed the program’s name to Diversity Management and Development, foreseeing the changing political landscape for Affirmative Action Programs. He was the first to do so and today all New York State offices are designated Diversity Management rather than Affirmative Action. Later, he served as New York State Director of Rent Administration for Upper Manhattan. Dennis was acknowledged with a certificate of appreciation from Governor George E. Pataki on behalf of the people of the state for his role in helping to create New York State’s Dr. King Day Community Service Initiative. He also received a certificate of merit from then-Senator David Patterson.
In 2005, D-DayMedia Group partnered with the Pfizer Corporation to host the Fisk Jubilee Singers at the Adam Clayton Powell Jr. State Office Building in Harlem, where the group performed and received a Proclamation from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the City Council, proclaiming Fisk Jubilee Singers Day in New York City.
A Fisk University Dennis had been a member of Writer-in-Residence John Oliver Killen’s Creative Writers Workshop, which was modeled after the Harlem Writers Guild that Killen had founded in 1950 with Rosa Guy and John Henrik Clark. Dennis’s articles have appeared in the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, Washington’s Capitol City Spotlight, the Staten Island Advance, the Gannett-Westchester News, the Times of Northwest Indiana, the New York Daily Challenge, and the New York Amsterdam News, where he interned as a reporter. He traveled to Russia with a cadre of journalists from the Russian Center for Church Multiplication and reported on the underground church in the time of Perestroika after the breakup of the USSR. As an assistant researcher for Tony Carnes’ book, New York Glory:Religions in the City. Dennis conducted interviews about the diversity of religious life in New York.
Currently, Dennis blogs at www.ddaymedia.wordpress.com.
Dennis experienced the events of September 11, 2001, as a first-hand witness. On his commute to his New York State office, which was three blocks from the World Trade Center, Dennis saw the second plane hit the building and found himself in the midst of the tumult. That tragedy precipitated a life-changing epiphany. As he watched the buildings implode, his life flashed before him and he realized he had unfulfilled dreams and unfinished business that revolved around his creative passions. Thus, D-Day Media Group was born.
Dennis ended his career with New York State and earned a Master’s degree in Media Arts from Long Island University with a focus on documentary filmmaking and production. His written thesis, American Television Reporting on 9/11: Framing a War Narrative, examined the role of the media in shaping the narrative that led the nation into the Iraq War. His film thesis, 9/11: Unfinished Business, parallels 9/11’s role in awakening Day’s vision to pursue his storytelling through music, writing, and film.
He worked as a reporter, producer, and video editor for DRUM Television in Harlem, and created and hosted a public-access television series, Global Village Talk on Time Warner’s Manhattan Neighborhood Network, in which he developed documentary segments on cultural, political, and public affairs issues and events. He writes, produces and hosts regular arts and social media commentary on a variety of online platforms.