A big stage and bright lights often pull people away from their small town. We’re in Emery, South Dakota where a kindergarten teacher, and yes singer/songwriter’s, roots are only growing deeper.
“I’ve never tried to get famous or anything that’s never appealed to me. I just like to sing music. I like to write it. It’s just a creative outlet for me mostly. So, and it’s done well for me. So…” said Dayna Jones.
“And people enjoy it,” said KELOLAND On The Road host, Mike Huether.
“Yeah, which is good to hear. (laughs),” said Dayne Jones.
That is Dayna Jones of Emery, South Dakota.
“I started piano when I was little. I’ve always liked music. High school, I played a few different instruments. I love band and chorus and I like musical theatre. So, I just did all of that, and I really enjoyed it,” said Dayna Jones.
“Ten years ago, I picked up the guitar. I just always wanted to learn how to play, so I just kind of taught myself how to play and it worked out,” said Dayna Jones.
Dayna played in cover bands and her own band for a while. Now she has focused on writing and singing her own songs with some success. She stays grounded according to her friend, Kara Kayser.
“She doesn’t want the spotlight, yet she’s in the spotlight, you know, being an artist and a singer. So, I think that is for release, writing the songs and pouring your heart into the music,” said Kara Kayser.
Another thing she pours her heart into are her Bridgewater/Emery Kindergarten students.
“One thing that’s awesome is that she incorporates music into her classroom. So, at the end of the day, every day, the kids sing, and they come home singing these songs. And it really makes them feel special and appreciated, said Kara Kayser.
Retired fellow teacher and friend, Jean Clarke of Emery, has also seen Dayna’s impact in the classroom.
“She doesn’t get excited. She is the ideal kindergarten teacher for that reason,” said Jean Clarke.
“She really loves kids. That a huge asset to her. And she has really become a part of the families, a part of the community. And so, I think that, you know, her style is just that she is, she finds it important to be involved,” said Jean Clarke.
“I’ve taught Kindergarten. This will be my 17th year. I love the little ones. So, they’re always excited to come to school. And yeah, they’re just my people,” said Dayna Jones.
“Your people?” asked Mike Huether.
“Yeah. I always joke, all my friends are under the age of five. So…” said Dayna Jones.
Her “people” go beyond the little ones at school. They are high school volleyball athletes, too.
“She doesn’t, you know, get crazy on the court. But she’s very supportive of the girls. And both on the court and off the court when she sees them. You know, ‘You did a great job last night, I know you can do this.’ So, she has a really strong connection with the kids she coaches, too,” said Jean Clarke.
“Her people” have been there when Dayna has needed them, too.
“I have something called ‘Pectus Excavitum’. It’s more or less a chest deformity. They don’t really know why people have it or what causes it. It’s… we know it’s genetic,” explained Dayna Jones.
“It’s just where your chest and breast bone like kind of cave in and form a dip instead of you know, normal rib cages like this,” said Dayna Jones.
“It kind of smashes your heart. And it just kind of depends on where it sits on your heart how it affects you. And mine was flattening right in on my right ventricle. And so my heart could only work 40%,” said Dayna Jones.
“Okay,” said Mike Huether.
Phoenix Mayo performed intensive and ultimately painful surgery to help improve her condition. Dayna explains:
“They cut you on both sides and they put in these… I have two titanium bars. And they kind of put them in and they, they bend them to curve to fit you. And then they flip them and like kind of pop your rib cage out,” said Dayna Jones.
“After the surgery, I did have a little complication. My right vocal cord was paralyzed for a few months. Yeah and so I was pretty devastated because I thought that was going to be gone,” Said Dayna Jones.
“Martina was very helpful and gave me some tips and things and hooked me up with some people that could help me as well. So, she’s always there for me, always good to me, and I appreciate it very much,” said Dayna Jones.
The Martina she is thankful for in county music superstar, Martina McBride. Kara explains the connection:
“They’ve developed a friendship and kind of have played off of each other and been, I think she’s been a mentor and inspiration to Dayna,” said Kara Kayser.
Yet, there is no doubt that Dayna’s greatest inspiration is Emery and the townsfolk all around this great community. You can feel it in her heart and in her music. Just ask her fans.
“People can relate to it,” said Jean Clarke.
“It’s all about the feeling of closeness, the feeling of support that a small town gives people,” said Jean Clarke.
“A lot of people say, ‘Oh, you know, I want to be in the big time or I want to sing with someone important, or I want to be someone important.’ But I think Dayna is just really happy connecting with people here in South Dakota, particularly because that’s what she does. A lot of her concerts, a lot of her singing engagements. And I think she’s just very happy to be a part of the bigger community,” said Jean Clark.
Dayna’s biggest hit is titled, “Lonely in A Small town.” It is a tribute to her proud town of Emery and yes, proud small towns everywhere.
“Emery is obviously very near and dear to her heart as well. And so, we really appreciate that, we think that is very unique,” said Kara Kayser.
“It’s kind of our little, you know, piece of fame. Our little piece of our hearts that she talks about,” said Kara Kayser.
“I just wanted to write a song about my town. And I didn’t know if it would be cheesy or not,” said Dayna Jones.
“It kind of took off. And I think it just connected with a lot of people who live in small towns and knowing there’s no way anyone can be lonely in a small town,” said Dayna Jones.
MUSIC: “We all have a million reasons to leave. But there’s one excuse to stay around, cuz no one gets lonely in a small town.”
In three years, the titanium bars in Dayna’s chest will be removed. In the meantime, she is going to teach, coach, take care of Emery and its people, and yes, sing!
If you’d like to watch Dayna’s music video, “Lonely In a Small Town”, just watch the video below.