Flash back to 2022.
I was in attendance at the Saginaw African Cultural Festival at the old Morley School grounds. While chatting with fellow Saginaw County Commissioner Michael Webster, a tall, young African American woman appeared on stage.
With apologies to Commissioner Webster, once she began singing our conversation immediately halted as I became enthralled with her performance. That young lady was none other than Indigo Dudley, one of Saginaw’s shining stars. Since that day, I have watched the multi-talented Dudley’s career soar. And, it seems as if there’s nothing Dudley, the daughter of Marc and Sonya Dudley, won’t attempt to tackle.
Her love of music came at the relatively young age of four when she started taking piano lessons.
“My parents signed my older sister up for lessons and naturally – just like any other younger sibling – I wanted to do it too,” said Dudley. “I was hooked after that.” Dudley indicated that nobody actually pushed her into music; however, it was something she turned to after a traumatic time in her life and she ultimately fell in love with it.
“I think the turning point for me was in middle school,” she said. “I was bullied a lot and it felt like I didn’t have anyone to talk to about it. But I always knew a song that could relate or help me feel better. I think that’s when I realized I wanted to create music to help someone through whatever they’re going through.”
While in the sixth grade her father purchased her first guitar. Their agreement was that once he felt like she had mastered the piano, he’d get her another instrument. Dudley is self-taught on the guitar and calls herself an “advanced beginner.”
When Dudley entered Heritage High School, she discovered yet another love – sports. She participated in basketball, volleyball and track and field all four years. Dudley, who graduated in 2015, capped her prep career as one of the Saginaw Valley League’s Scholar-Athletes of the Year and owned an impressive 3.504 grade point average.
If you are guessing that Dudley lives an active life, you are correct. She also attended Saginaw Arts and Sciences Academy from 6th-12th grade and was part of its voice/keyboard program. Her musical accomplishments included a $2,000 scholarship at the 2015 American Musical and Academy competition and a $4,000 renewable scholarship at the Music Conservatory in Los Angeles.
Dudley said she isn’t exactly sure when she first performed in front of people.
“I’m honestly not sure,” she said. “I had solos in church or at school all the time. I do remember the first large crowd I sang in front of was at a Saginaw High/Arthur Hill basketball game. I was in the fourth grade. My mom was the athletic director at Arthur Hill at the time and something went wrong with the National Anthem (recording) track. She told me maybe 5-10 minutes before the game that she needed me to sing the National Anthem. I was terrified as I had never sung the song before. I think I did an okay job, but I fell in love with the thrill/rush of performing. I was hooked after that.”
“I love any music I can connect to and has a story behind it. I know that’s vague, but I don’t have a specific genre that’s my go to. I love R&B, Neo-Soul, Country, Rap, Gospel, and Jazz. I love Alicia Keys. She’s been someone I’ve always admired. Her talent, along with the musicianship of her songs, are powerful. I would love the opportunity to meet her one day.”
Dudley took her talents to Saginaw Valley State University where she received a Bachelor’s Degree in General Studies and triple-minored in Music, Musical Theatre, and Black Studies. One of the requirements for studying music was voice lessons, the only time she actually had private training. She noted that her favorite class at SVSU was Independent Study with Dr. Kenneth Jolly.
“He was one of the teachers that made me fall in love with history,” said Dudley. “It really allowed me to explore the nuances of what I wanted to learn (Black women in music) and challenged me to dig deeper. He was also the advisor of the group I was president of (Organization of Black Unity) and always had my back.”
While at Saginaw Valley, she met her future fiancé, James Connolly, who lived on the same floor during their freshman year. They plan to wed in August of 2024. And, if she wasn’t busy enough, Dudley reigned as Miss Saginaw County from 2021-22.
“The experience really taught me to be authentic. In the pageant world, it’s very easy to get swept up in people-pleasing or imposter syndrome. It taught me that I don’t have to be put in a box and even though others might not like it, who and what I am is good enough for me."
This past summer she was part of a 25-person contingent that spent 10 days in Amanokrom, Saginaw’s sister city in The Republic of Ghana. The trip was sponsored by Saginaw Valley State University and the First Ward Community Center.
“It was absolutely amazing,” said Dudley, who added that it was her first time out of the country. “I was very excited they selected me to be a part of this opportunity. To actually see and experience the culture and history I had read about was humbling. I had the opportunity to sing the Black National Anthem “Lift Every Voice and Sing” in front of the Chiefs and Queens at a ceremony.
After graduating from SVSU in the Spring of 2021, the 26-year-old started Indigo Music Studio which is currently located in the basement of her Saginaw home. In the future she would like to expand to a separate location.
“I want to keep diving into music and release a couple songs I’ve been working on. Also, last year I started a non-profit called My Music Matters. The goal is to highlight and provide resources to local musicians and advocate for cultural awareness through music education initiatives in the Great Lakes Bay Region. The city is filled with talented people but sometimes it’s hard to find the support you need. I want My Music Matters to fill that need.”
The energetic Dudley also is the head volleyball and girls’ track and field coach at Saginaw United High School. She recently was a recipient of the Saginaw Branch of the NAACP’s 2023 Young Professionals award for her outstanding professional achievements and contribution to others. In December Dudley will be performing in “Noel: Experience Christmas” at the Temple Theatre. Aside from music, Dudley is an avid reader and can often be found at Barnes & Noble.
“I love what I do and I believe in it,” said Dudley. “So, when you love and believe in what you’re doing, working to get there is a no-brainer. My parents taught us to not be afraid of hard work and to enjoy it. And I’ve always found that the things I enjoy or cherish the most come from the amount of work I put in to get there.”
“I have a great support system that keeps me humble, but I have to owe the teaching to my parents,” explained Dudley. “They’ve helped me understand walking the line of knowing my worth and what I’m capable of, and humbling myself when I don’t have all the answers. I don’t always get it right, but that’s why my support system is there.”
Her parents, Marc and Sonya, currently resident in Tennessee. Marc is an electrical engineer who formerly worked at Delphi (now Nexteer) and Hemlock Semiconductor. He now works at the new Ford plant in Memphis. Sonya, meanwhile, is a high school coach and is a Dual Enrollment Coordinator at a virtual school.
If you are wondering the origin of Indigo’s first name, that was derived from her mother. “My mom is a huge Denel Washington fan. And there’s a movie he starred in called “Mo’ Better Blues.” Well, Denzel’s love interest was named Indigo, and I guess my mom thought that was the perfect name for me. So here I am!”
16th November, 2023