Conya Doss may be the hippest, soul-singin’ mother climbing her way to the top of the music industry right now. Her recent single, “Don’t Change,” from her sixth album “Pocketful Of Purpose,” just dropped a few weeks ago.
(You can purchase her new album here)
And, with a graduate degree in education, she’s also among the smartest performers rocking the stage when she’s not teaching a classroom full of anxious (and sometimes unruly) teenagers in the Cleveland Public School System.
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Perhaps, above all else, it is her daily interactions with her students and observations of their struggles that defines how she writes her songs and dignified way with which she conducts herself in the music industry. Doss admits her rising star could have risen higher and much faster had she caved in to producers’ suggestions that she become more sexual with her wardrobe and raunchier with her lyrics. But she balked at every suggestion, knowing that such a change of course would contradict every value she tries to instill in the young people she teaches and mentors on a daily basis.
WATCH CONYA DOSS SING, “DON’T CHANGE”
Some music executives have told her not to dress like a “school mom” and to show more cleavage. Her reply: “When you have your own video, you can show cleavage.” One time, she was asked to straighten her hair. Doss refused. “Obviously that relationship didn’t last long,” she told me during a recent phone interview. At least on five different occasions, Doss recalls instances where her career could have gotten a boost. But, because she chose to stick her beliefs on how her music career should unfold, Doss’s trajectory was “India Arie’d,” so to speak.
But, true to her recent single and the values her aunts and all of the strong women in her life taught her, she stuck to her mantra: Don’t Change!
To be sure, Doss grew up idolizing Diana Ross for her positive portrayal of Black womanhood and Stevie Wonder for his vocal range and lyrical depth. But it is her “village” upbringing and her role as a teacher of 14 years that sustains her resolve to pursue her singing career on her own terms. Doss realizes, however, that many young entertainers didn’t grow up surrounded by a “village” of strong women who helped to shape her values.
She notices, for example, that many neophyte singers are very quick to cave in to producers’ demands that they dress and sing in ways that may make them uncomfortable. But, as many of them have told her, they don’t see an alternative.
“I don’t have nothing to lose. I didn’t finish school,” Doss says many artists tell her. “I don’t have a job. I didn’t go to college.”
In her role as a teacher, she says many of her students aspire to be entertainers and often ask for her help with their music. She offers it. But only doing so after school and insisting that they do all of the writing. Doss never helps them with their entertainment aspirations during class. Her students know that she hits the stage when she is not imploring them to hit the books. But she keeps her singing outside of the classroom, making sure they know that their education is the center stage attraction during the school day.
Balancing motherhood, teaching and mentoring young people and pursuing her singing career her way has not been an easy juggling act. But Doss doesn’t want to take the easy road to stardom. She feels there’s too much at stake.
“I have students. I have a niece. I have a son,” Doss told me during a recent phone interview from her Cleveland, OH home. “I was always very conscience about that.”
We need more conscience artists in the world. Conya Doss is certainly one of them.