CLOVER -- From the time she was 10, all Fay Aiyana has wanted to do is sing.
She did so throughout her teen years -- developing a 4 1/2-octave range similar to the high, birdlike trills of her hero, Mariah Carey -- and performed with the Clover High School Choraliers and the S.C. All State Chorus.
"There were days when she would literally be singing for three or four hours at home, at school and performances," says her mother, Lajla Duffy.
But there was a price for playing Aiyana's musical instrument so intensely.
"During my senior year around Christmas, I got a bad sore throat. I just thought it was laryngitis," said Aiyana, on a couch in her family's Clover home this week.
But her sore throat didn't go away.
And it got so bad, Aiyana had to drop out of chorus during her senior year in 2001.
Medical tests later revealed she had torn her right vocal cord. In addition to the throat injury, she had a severe case of acid reflux that had further aggravated the lining of her throat.
"All my dreams of being a singer began to fall apart," she said, tears forming around her deer-brown eyes.
She was diagnosed with dysphonia -- a defective use of the voice -- from excessive singing. Throat surgery was mostly unsuccessful.
"I became depressed. It was the lowest time of my life. I just couldn't figure out how I was going to go on with my life without music," she said.
But it has not been all sour notes for this 22-year-old.
After graduating from Clover High, she moved to California to be with her birth father, Herman Beeftink, a Dutch music editor and songwriter who works in film and TV in Los Angeles. Her birth name is Fay Aiyana Beeftink, but she has dropped her last name and goes by Fay Aiyana in the entertainment business -- Aiyana is an Native American word that her mother says means "forever blooming."
She earned a degree in psychology and began to work in the music industry with her dad.
Beeftink has produced music in the current movie "Wild Hogs" with Tim Allen and "The Simpsons Movie," as well as the full musical score for "Dish Dogs." He says that as a child, Aiyana had the ability to not only mimic Mariah Carey's "beautiful airy vocal quality but also effortlessly reach Mariah's famous high notes."
To make ends meet during her voice recovery, Beeftink hired her to help on several of his film projects.
"It took her mind somewhat off her vocal situation, and she developed a love for it," he said. "Fay is a very crafty songwriter who is very much in touch with all the current popular styles of music, and co-writing with her is of course a thrill for me."
James Bladon is a music editor who has been nominated for three Emmy Awards. He has hired Aiyana to assist him on his music work for the TV show "Las Vegas."
"Fay has an amazing combination of youthful energy, maturity and wisdom for someone her age," he said.
He compared her vocal cord injury to the car accident guitarist Les Paul was involved in, which forced him to learn a new way to play the guitar.
"I think that's exactly what Fay has done," he said. "She has been forced to look deeper into herself to discover where her music really comes from."
Aiyana has sung an original song for the TV show "Gilmore Girls." She also sings "You Turn Me On," which plays on each episode during the final credits on the Cinemax program "Sin City Diaries," and that song is now available on iTunes.
And if that was not enough, she has recently gone to the recording studio and her first CD is being released in August, "Illuminate the Shadows." The title song is inspired by her struggle with her vocal cord injury.
Speaking and singing, she has a beautiful but raspy voice of a much older woman -- similar to Kim Carnes -- who sang "Bette Davis Eyes." She and her mother laugh out loud when asked to describe her voice and respond, "sultry and sexy." On her Web site, Aiyana describes her CD as a "cool combo of sexy grooves and catchy melodies."
Aiyana is home for about a week relaxing with her family -- hanging out with her younger sister, Mariah (her mother let Aiyana name her), and taking it easy.
"I love being from the South. L.A. is so different, so busy. But Clover and South Carolina is who I am," she said. "This is where I learned to sing."
To learn more biographical information on Aiyana and how to purchase her CD, go to www.FayAiyana.com.
To learn more biographical information on Aiyana and how to purchase her CD, go to www.Fay Aiyana.com.
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