18 Years of Perfect Harmonies
By Cynthia Robinson
Photography by Mike Force Photography
When Dara Davis and Leslie Jackson met 18 years ago, they became the best of friends almost immediately. Now, nearly two decades later, their bond is stronger than ever.
“We were both in the Island Players’ production of (the musical) Irene. We played friends on stage and bonded almost immediately,” Leslie said. “We did hit it off quickly,” Dara added. “We laughed at the same things.”
They also both grew up singing and playing music and performing in musical theatre. “I play the piano,” said Leslie, who currently teaches music at Sterling Elementary. “I did musical theatre all through high school and college. My first musical was The Music Man.”
“Leslie also plays ukulele and the bass guitar. She’s uber talented! I played trombone and clarinet,” Dara said. “I started doing shows with The Island Players when I was 12. I also performed in shows through high school and college and have worked professionally here and overseas.”
While the duo once again lives in the same area—Leslie in Darien and Dara in Kingsland—their friendship has remained strong even when the two were separated by thousands of miles. “We (she and her family) just moved back in July from Guam,” Dara said. ‘My husband is a Department of Defense firefighter and paramedic, and he got the chance to move there for his job. I was the music director for the Guam Children’s Choir and Youth Symphony. I am also a scuba instructor, so that worked out well. We were there five years, but Leslie and I never lost touch with each other.”
“She loved it there,” Leslie said. “We tried to get you to come over,” Dara added. Although Lesile never made the trip over, the two spent hours on the phone using FaceTime.
“I kept my world clock on Guam time,” Leslie said, smiling. “Once we were on FaceTime when she was in Guam, and we both started laughing at something, and we ended up laughing for 10 solid minutes. And during quarantine we would sit up and watch Netflix together. We watched The Tiger King, and both agree it was awful!” Leslie added, while they both broke out in laughter. “It was a train wreck! You couldn’t look away.”
The two also completed a 5K together virtually, with Dara running in Guam and Leslie in Darien. “We did a 5K on two continents and did a FaceTime high five at the end,” said Leslie.
Not only did they share many laughs, the two were also there for each other during their most trying moments, as well. “My mom got cancer and went into hospice care,” Leslie said. “Dara immediately hopped on a plane from Guam. She was there for me when I needed her the most.”
Dara said Leslie was also there for her during a frightening surgery she had on her throat at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. “I was terrified that it could impact my ability to sing. Leslie was on standby and ready to fly up if I needed her. My husband had to stay in Guam, but my dad got there so I told her not to come. Thankfully, the surgery was a success. She did meet me at the airport in Jacksonville, where I had to recuperate before retuning to Guam. She was my point of contact and was there to tell me, ‘You did it!’”
Both women said they know they can count on each other and are happy to be back on the same continent. “Now that she’s back, we talk and see each other more often,” Leslie said. They say another key to their successful friendship is the way their personalities complement each other. “She’s the more cautious, and I’ve been told that I’m a bad influence,” Dara said. “That is not true!” Leslie answered.
“She tempers me and pulls me back when she needs to. But I’m still going to get you on the Hulk (roller coaster at Universal’s Islands of Adventure in Orlando),” Dara said, while Leslie shook her head, no. “I did ride Splash Mountain for you,” Leslie said. “I was so scared!”
They both said they are looking forward to many more adventures together, including another girls’ only trip to Disney World. “We also have big plans for when I retire,” Leslie said. “We are going to travel the world. Our husbands can come if they want, but it’s not a requirement.”
“We are lucky and blessed that our husbands understand, and they and our kids get along,” Dara added. “It’s all about doing things you love with people you love and being there for your friends when they need you the most. We have each other’s back. And you need to laugh!”
Origins: Leslie is from Pavo, Ga., “a very, very tiny town near Thomasville.” Dara was born in Texas, but grew up in Climax, Ga. “It’s right up the road from Pavo,” she said.
Family Ties: Dara is married to Howard Davis IV, and they have three children, son Hall, 16; and daughters Ella, 12 and Allie, 7. Leslie is married to Denny McBrayer, and they have two sons, Jack, 12 and Sammy 8.
Education: Leslie graduated Thomas County Central High School and Valdosta State University. Dara graduated from Brunswick High School and earned a Music degree from Florida State University, as well as a Master’s in Theatre from Washington University.
Was That Our Exit? The two love to sing together. “We even missed our exit on the interstate while we were singing! I think we were singing along to the instrumental version of Wicked. We sing mostly show tunes. We can belt out some Broadway!”
Future Performances: While Dara has continued to perform in theatre, she is trying to get Leslie to return to the stage with her. “I would love to do something,” Leslie said. “I’m doing a Christmas concert and you’re going to do it with me,” Dara added, laughing. “I’m going to make it happen!”