By Kevin Alan Lamb
After being approved to cover my first music festival, Electric Forest 2013, I scanned through the lineup trying to find performers I had a personal connection to who might agree to an interview. One of those performers was Dixon’s Violin, who not only agreed to interview, but sat for close to an hour while we engaged in a dynamic dialogue ranging from spirituality to philosophy. His passion and joy for meaningful conversation and life helped me feel at home, knowing I was where I belonged.
Roughly five years later, Dixon had a day off and found himself in Ferndale when he thought to himself, “Why don’t I visit my friend Kevin at Otus Supply?”
Upon learning that I no longer worked there, he was let down initially, then realized he could just give me a call. Two days later he came to my home and we’ve been working together since.
It satisfies my soul to help share the light beaming from his bow and being, seeing the way his journey helps comfort, empower, and illuminate the road before others. I learn a little more from Dixon every day, and I’m honored to be able help book and promote his shows, so he has a little more room to breathe and balance the business of being Dixon’s Violin, and the pleasure of being Dixon.
Many of us have discovered a deep, and meaningful collection with this man at Electric Forest, but have learned that magic is all around us at all times, and we possess the power to see and realize it. Dixon is a musical shaman who helps us see, believe, and realize our potential. He reminds us that being ourselves is a strength, and creating space to celebrate that strength together makes us even stronger. He is a man who took a look at his life and wasn’t happy with what came out on the other side. He is a man who did something about it. He is a man who gives each of us permission to begin again and invest our love in a life that is true to our gifts, longings, and hopes to leave something meaningful behind.
Music literally changed his life so each night he takes the stage intent on paying it forward. An evening with Dixon’s Violin is cathartic, transformative, and something everyone should experience, at least once.
To help give the gift of Dixon’s Violin, I have teamed up with Chad Elhart of West Mitten Media to present his debut performance at Park Theatre in Holland, MI., Friday, May 24. This will be the first of several shows co-presented with West Mitten Media.
The first part of this interview is with Dixon, and the second part, Chad.
I’ve noticed a lot more club shows on your calendar for 2019. Was that a conscious choice or did it just kind of happen that way?
I’m so excited about my tour! I walked away from my technology career 8 years ago to follow my dream, which meant plunging headfirst into the insanity which is the music business. At first this meant struggling to get any kind of show. I have always been diligent and patient about pursuing opportunities, and I knock on countless doors every year, trusting that some will open. Since what I do as a performer is quite unique, I’ve been able to play a lot of music festivals which were looking for “something different” to include in their lineup. Over years now, I’ve been reaching more and more fans, which is a blessing and also is required to successfully do club shows. I’m learning which events and spaces are a good fit for what I do. If a venue is looking for dance music or background music for people to drink to, then it’d be a waste of my time and energy to reach out to them. Those things aren’t bad (I love to dance, too), but it isn’t what I offer. I often see people caught in the trap of feeling rejected by something (or someone) that isn’t a fit for them anyway. Focus on what works, ignore what doesn’t. The world’s a big place, I’m putting my energy into the places that support a deep performance experience, and I’m grateful to have so many opportunities now in venues that support this!
You’re an incredibly busy man… have you been able to take the time to enjoy the beauty of West Michigan, or maybe another place in the state that is magic for you?
I love exploring new places, and though my tour schedule doesn’t provide much free time, I do take short breaks whenever I can, especially in nature. I often will look at a map on my phone and pan/zoom around wherever I’m at to find the nearest large patch of green (or blue). In particular, we are blessed with an amazing park system, with hundreds of city, county, and state parks all around – and I delight in exploring the trails or meditating in them. It helps my mental well-being. So many of us spend hours looking at a screen each day, and what we’re looking at often lights up our nervous system with anxiety. This builds up over time to a poor emotional (or even physical) state. Yet we tell ourselves we don’t have time for a break, or that taking a walk isn’t “productive”. Ask yourself this question: do you feel great? If not, then you probably won’t find the cure on a screen. For me, I have to remind myself to get off my butt and get outside, since whenever I do so, I feel better.
Rumor has it you’ve been playing an “enchanted violin” at Michigan Ren Fest?
It’s true! I’m on a mission to inspire people, and I’ve been experimenting with all sorts of different outlets for what I do, to see what works. I love the variety in my life – I perform at music festivals, yoga studios, nightclubs, warehouses, churches, art museums, and even the middle of the desert! I recently started performing at the Renaissance Festival in both Holly, Michigan and Tampa, Florida, and I’ve been delighted at the response! The music I create with the violin often sounds like it comes from another time, and it can have a mystical or fantasy aspect to it. I like to challenge the limits of what’s possible with the violin, and the Renaissance Festival is such a fun environment where it is common to see things out of the ordinary. You can even dress up in costume if you like, and it’s a super-respectful environment where we don’t judge someone based on what they’re wearing or if they have a tail or wings 🙂
There is immense love for you within most anyone who has experienced your performance – can you share your gratitude and joy in that exchange?
Quite simply, it has changed my life. I was never going to be a musician. I was playing classical music as a hobby for most of my life, but my main focus was technology – and I was blessed with a successful career that I enjoyed. In my hobby, I was comfortable playing sheet music but I was also curious about and terrified at the idea of improvising or creating my own music. When I finally overcame my fear, and started to share my own sounds, my feelings, and my heart with others – and I saw the look in people’s eyes, that we were connected, sharing in this energy deeply – it so profoundly moved me, that I changed my life. I quit the corporate world 8 years ago to follow this calling full-time, and I am so grateful to everyone for this! This has been the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and those magical shared-experience moments that can happen during a performance make it all worth it.
I think it’s important for everyone to realize that everyone is a fan of someone. Who are you an enormous fan of?
Wow, I’m a fan of so many I don’t think I could name or list them! I believe in people, and I want everyone to step into their power. I’m a fan of anyone who supports this – the coaches and guides of self-empowerment. We don’t need to cut each other down, there’s room for us all to be lifted up. We can celebrate another’s success as it doesn’t take anything away from us. I’m a fan of those that support self-expression. I love seeing someone boldy dress the way they want, or dance with abandon – you are reminding me that’s OK to be me. I held myself back for decades. I’m now owning it, and realizing that I have control of my life. Do you have a change you’ve wanted to make in your life? Something you want to create or bring into the world? I believe you are stronger than you think, and I encourage you to take a chance. You can do it! I’m a fan of you!
Enter Chad Elhart
How long have you been involved with Park Theatre? How did you come to work together?
I’ve be involved with the Park Theatre on a Working relationship since 2011, when I started volunteering to promote West Mitten Media shows. In 2012 I was asked to officially join WMM’s team as a part-owner. We have produced hundreds of shows at the Park Theatre over the last decade or so. In 2016, I was offered the Front of House Manager position at the Theatre and in 2018 I was offered the promotion of the Talent Buyer position.
What would be your personal dream show to produce there?
I’ve tried very hard to get Greensky Bluegrass, the Phoffman Trio, Quartet etc.
Would love to have the opportunity to work with those guys on some level. Unfortunately, I believe the times have passed for us to be able to land those guys at a venue of our capacity.
Tell us the story of West Mitten Media…
West Mitten Media is a full service promotion company based in Holland MI. We formed in 2009 in the spirit of collaboration between Chaotic Design and Dancin Pubert Promotions, two local startups with one common goal;
Bring it to the people.
We specialize in bringing the best in great local music to various venues in the West Michigan area. We are proud of our Michigan roots and to be able to bring you the innovative, eclectic variety of music that radiates from the soul of this beautiful peninsula.
West mitten media is not just a name, it’s a community. It’s the idea that we live in a place of abundance, a land of artistic milk and honey and we should celebrate it at all costs. Even if you don’t live here, when you are here you are part of that community, part of that collective atmosphere of creation and celebration, part of the Mitten.
Have you experienced the magic of Dixon’s Violin?
I believe I’ve experienced the magic of Dixon’s Violin in each of the 5 years I worked at the Electric Forest Festival. I’m stoked to finally have a show on the books with Mr. Dixon.
We’ve been in and out of contact over the last few years about setting something up at the Park Theatre. Having partnered up with This is a Good Sound is really what made it happen. We love collaborating with other promoters, and have always been giant fans of the Good Sound/Sign movement. Stoked to be working as a team on all of this.
Is there a dream you’ve been deferring? Do you feel stuck or helpless where you are? Maybe an evening with Dixon’s Violin will be the reminder and courage you’ve been seeking… Just in case you were listening for one, This Is A Good Sound.