Motivation to Create the DoSo Dance Band

Ten years ago I had an epiphany triggered by two events. First, I was attending a teachers’ conference at Berklee College of Music, and Fan Tao, the string designer at D’Addario, said, “Where will all these improvising string players find work?” The second trigger came when teaching improvisation to a high school wind player who was doing really well. I said to her, “You should join your high school jazz band.” She answered, “I already belong to the band, but we only do two concerts per year, and there are three students who get all the solos.”

It made me realize that there are two kinds of music: “concert” and “social.” I chose to dedicate myself to the latter by creating the DoSo String Band. The mission is to reunite live music with social dancing. This gives the musicians an opportunity to perform on a regular basis. Every song has room for improvisation, and the soloist does not have to be in the spotlight dazzling the audience. We just have to maintain the dance groove.

At first some students who were good jazz players questioned whether playing for dancers would provide a worthwhile experience. They were already accustomed to being featured in a jazz band. Soon they realized that playing for an audience that moves to your music is, in fact, a new experience. Improvising for great dancers is very much like jamming with great musicians. It takes your playing to new places, and reinforces the concept of “empathy through music.”

— David D Mills