Shaunda Shaw & Shineil Taylor
Brianna Ebony Simpson
Epiphanies often come in the darkest moments. For Issiah Haynes, his came while recuperating in a hospital in Germany after being wounded by a roadside bomb in Iraq.
When he awakened, he soon realized he needed to do more with his life, and that included going to college.
Today he’s an accomplished singer with a music degree from GPC and a winner in the state's National Association of Teachers of Singers competition, held in Athens. The son of a military man, Haynes joined the Army soon after high school in 1999, and served in Korea. He was deployed to Iraq after 9-11.
“I was a sergeant in the 52nd Army engineering unit, and my unit was going out for the day to check on a new construction site,” he said. “That day I volunteered to drive, and my Humvee happened to go over a bag of explosives that was remotely detonated.” The explosion killed one of his men. Haynes was blinded in the left eye by shrapnel and spent three days in coma.
“When I woke up, I first looked in the mirror and couldn’t recognize myself. I wondered why am I still here—why didn’t I die? I tried to figure out my life and what that all meant,” Haynes said.
After a month in Germany healing, Haynes was sent to Fort Carson, Colo., and then on to Fort Benning, Ga., for a desk job in the Army. It was during this time that Haynes reflected on his earlier life growing up in North Carolina, singing in his church choir and writing gospel songs.
“I realized that God had given me a purpose, to minister the Gospel through song,” he said. At Fort Benning, he met another singer, Don-T, and the two recorded songs together. Haynes also toured with a music group, and cut a CD under an independent label. Even while singing, he continued to reflect on his life’s purpose.
“As my passion for music grew, I knew I needed to learn more,” he said. “That’s why I enrolled in college. I knew I could get my start at GPC.”
Haynes took classes in theory, diction and classical guitar, and auditioned for the annual master class sponsored by the Georgia chapter of the National Association of Teachers of Singers. This competition brings Georgia’s best voice students together; Haynes’ audition CD won him a spot in the class taught by internationally known soprano Erie Mills. He was one of 16 students selected from across the state for the honor, said Dr. Christina Howell, GPC assistant professor of music. Another GPC voice student, mezzo-soprano Ebony Collier, claimed an alternate spot.
Haynes later performed at New York City’s Carnegie Hall with the GPC Chorale. “Where else but GPC could I get to do something like that?” Haynes said.
He studied classical music with GPC professor, Dr. (Christina) Howell. “It opened up a new world of beautiful music for me,” he said. Haynes also studied classical guitar at GPC.
After graduating from GPC, Haynes pursued a bachelor’s degree in music at Kennesaw State University. He plans to get a master’s degree and teach music at a college.