Taylor Dayne keeps Long Island roots close to her heart

Long Island native Taylor Dayne returns home Saturday Long Island native Taylor Dayne returns home Saturday for a show in Patchogue. Photo Credit: Taylor Dayne PR

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Taylor Dayne took a moment to relax after dropping off 12-year-old twins Levi and Astaria at school. A workout and answering emails were the only tasks left on a recent day’s docket.

“It’s not too complicated today,” Dayne says in between laughing.

She laughs because life often isn’t that easy for a single mom who manages home life in Los Angeles between performing what she calls “weekend warrior” shows across North America.

The 52-year-old Baldwin High School alumnus will come home to Long Island this Saturday for a 7 p.m. concert at the Patchogue Theatre for the Performing Arts. Since the release of her 1987 breakout single, “Tell It to My Heart,” Dayne has filled her resumé with everything from global tours to a Broadway stage.

“We try to do these mighty-condensed-intense shows on schedule and then make sure I’m home for the kids and then go back out,” Dayne said.

The time crunch notwithstanding, trips back to Long Island bring back fond memories, like childhood visits to Baldwin’s now-defunct Nunley’s amusement park for a ride on the merry-go-round.

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As a young girl, she would sit on the ornate, antique-style horses and set her sights on the “golden ring,” a determination that she would also bring to her music pursuits.

The result was a successful solo career selling more than 75 million albums and singles worldwide, earning three Grammy nominations and performing on Broadway as Amneris in Elton John’s “Aida.”

She tracks her journey back to the day her father, Jack Wunderman, gave Dayne her first transistor radio. It was so long ago she doesn’t remember how old she was, but she recalls the first song that played vividly: Stevie Wonder’s “My Cherie Amore.”

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“If you’re gonna imitate and be inspired by anybody, I would say that’s pretty much the best of the best,” Dayne said.

Her love for music continued into her days at Baldwin High School, where she was a member of the concert choir and drew much inspiration from her music teacher, Melinda Edwards.

Edwards -- who still calls Dayne “Leslie” in reference to her given name, Leslie Wunderman -- recognized the power in Dayne’s voice, and placed her in the alto section because they were short on boys.

“Leslie had some nice low notes and sang the alto 1 part. She seemed really happy there and with popular music, she needs those low notes,” said Edwards, 73, of Glen Cove.

Dayne subsequently attended Nassau Community College, where she studied music theory and composition.

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Following graduation, Dayne met Lisa Gallotta in 1985 at the weekend-long “Women, Sex and Power” conference in Manhattan, run through the California-based Sterling Institute. A chance meeting with producer Rick Wake while singing in a Brooklyn club led to the “Tell it to My Heart” debut, but before then Gallotta noticed Dayne’s relentlessness.

Gallotta remembers the aspiring singer performing Russian repertoire in Toronto. Dayne drove from Long Island to Canada for the opportunity in 1986 and learned her music phonetically because she did not speak Russian.

“If there were opportunities to be had, she was going to go get it,” said Gallotta, 58, of Manhattan, who remains close to Dayne and will be at the show Saturday.

After the “Tell It to My Heart” single and same-named album made Dayne a star, she didn’t forget her friend or her alma mater. When she purchased a Victorian-style house in Lloyd Harbor and asked Gallotta to come look at it, her friend asked why she bought the house with such a busy schedule. Dayne responded that she’d be needing some help and asked Gallotta to live there with her.

The pair lived there nearly four years, entertaining guests when Dayne was home on weekends. Gallotta recalls December 1990, when Dayne used her charm to convince Huntington Fire Department members to help her put up a Christmas tree in her house after purchasing one too big for the two women to get inside.

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“So we had the volunteer fire department putting up the tree and we had a Christmas tree party... We had cocktails and food put out. It was just lovely,” Gallotta said.

That month, she also returned to Baldwin High School to sing “The Hallelujah Chorus” with the concert choir.

“Every year alumni were invited to get in with the students and sing ‘The Hallelujah Chorus’… When I got up there as an alumni, I was beaming and the students were so proud and joyful,” Dayne said.

She still beams when talking about home.

“I haven’t lived there [Long Island] in the last 15 years, but I’m a New York girl,” Dayne said. “There are the most beautiful un-manicured spots and I’ve had the blessings to be exposed to that and live in it. Our Hamptons, our water, our North Shore… It truly is the Gold Coast.”

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