Iraq War Vet is Accomplished Singer at GPC

Contact: Rebecca Rakoczy
Phone: 678-891-2691
Fax: 678-891-2966   
Author: Rebecca Rakoczy   

For Immediate Release
GPC student Issiah Haynes (pictured here) wins Georgia’s National Association of Teachers of Singers competition. (Photo by Bill Roa, GPC Assistant Director of Photography Services and Creative Imagery.)

Epiphanies often come in the darkest moments. For Georgia Perimeter College student 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 pursuing his music degree at GPC and a winner in the state's National Association of Teachers of Singers competition, held recently 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 here at GPC.”

While taking classes in theory, diction and classical guitar, Haynes also auditioned to participate in the annual master class sponsored by the Georgia chapter of the National Association of Teachers of Singers. This competition brings the best voice students of Georgia 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. The master class was in Athens in early November.

“The master class is a high pressure situation to sing in, and it’s also a big deal,” said Howell. Haynes, a tenor, sang the aria, “Come Away Fellow Sailors,” from the opera, Dido and Aeneas by Henry Purcell in front of an audience that included master teacher Mills, Howell said.

“Issiah has a lot of natural talent and he’s a really good student, willing to experiment and try things,” said Howell. “His voice lends itself beautifully to classical music. It’s like he was born for it.”

The music classrooms of GPC are a far cry from the battles of Mosul and his life in the military, Haynes said. But he is excited about the possibilities that have opened up here at GPC.

“Through my professor, Dr. (Christina) Howell, I have begun pursuing classical music – it’s opened up a new world of beautiful music for me,” he said. Hayes also is studying classical guitar at the college. After completing his studies at GPC, Haynes hopes to graduate and use GPC’s Transfer Admission Guarantee to continue his music studies at Georgia State University. But next year? “I want to audition again for the master class—Erie Mills is a dynamic and exciting teacher, and I was glad to be a part of it. I learned so much in just a short time. I'm looking forward to doing it again.”
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Georgia Perimeter College, the third largest institution of the University System of Georgia, serves more than 22,500 students through four campuses and several sites in metro Atlanta. For additional information, visit