Broadway veteran Syndee Winters brings her talents to Baltimore Center Stage this weekend. Her latest effort celebrates the life of American Icon, Lena Horne, in a one-woman play. Through words and music, winters will perform hits off her newly released album, Syndee Winters: Lessons from a Lady.
Known for her impressive work onstage, including roles in “Hamilton” and “Motown the Musical,” Winters recently reprised her role as Nala in “The Lion King” on Broadway. She is also nominated for a Grammy Award for her performance in NBC’s “Jesus Christ Superstar” with John Legend. That awards show will air Sunday night.
To prepare for her newest role, Winters spent time researching Horne’s lifelong work as a singer, dancer, actress and civil rights activist.
“This project has been something that was born out of my experience of being in the theater,” Winters says. “I’ve spent a lot of time reading several biographies on her as well as watching interviews and YouTube videos. I just dove in.”
The resulting album as a musical love letter to Horne.
“When I started reading her biography and her autobiography, I fell in love with her and started finding parallels between her life and my own,” Winters says. “Writing the stories came more easily to me because her challenges are relevant to the challenges that I’ve faced in my career as a young woman of color in this industry.”
And, like Horne, she considers herself both a storyteller and a songstress.
“With Lena Horne, she wasn’t a songwriter, but she had this beautiful ability to tell stories through her performance,” winters says. “It’s one of the great things that I learned from her while doing my research and it’s helped grow me as a performer for sure.”
Winters has a few rituals to help her get in the zone before she hits the stage, she says.
“Before each show, I meditate, and I try to take some time for myself,” she says. “When I’m doing a show like Lena Horne, for a half hour, no one’s allowed in my dressing room because I just have to get into this space where I can tell the best story I can.”
Growing up, Winters admired Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston and much of the music from the late ’80s and ’90s.
“I’m also inspired by storytellers like Bob Marley and India Arie, these performers that are telling great stories in their songs,” she says. “Music, it’s just been my passion for my entire life.”
Syndee Winters will sing at Center stage on Feb. 9. centerstage.org