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Featured Artist of the Month

January 2023 - Dede Alder

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Dede Alder

About Dede Alder

Written by

Sue Clements

Have you seen her perform? If not, please treat yourself to a New Year’s gift. Go see Dede and the Dreamers, watch some of her videos, get some of her music. It’s magic watching her. She is so comfortable and engaging. Immediately you’re drawn in and it's just so lovely to be there with her.

Dede is a performer, a teacher, and a joyful, talented human being and a musician. Dede doesn’t panic on stage. She doesn’t get nervous; in fact, she seems at home and admits that she loves performing. Dede has studied with performance coach Rob Rider for 5 or 6 years. She’s worked on “how to let the music speak through me and get, sort of, out of the way,” she shared.

Dede and the Dreamers just released a new album, Powerful, in November 2022. Powerful wasn’t recorded in the typical manner. Instead, the band set up their own DIY studio in a couple of different houses and a hotel room. Dede really enjoyed putting it together this way. Avoiding some of the pressure which comes with the usual recording process, paying for studio time by the hour. “It puts on a lot of pressure to go in and nail your part,” she shared.

The album features Dede Alder on vocals, marimba, keyboards, and songwriting; Chris Michels on bass, guitar, and songwriting; Josh Holcomb on five-string violin and songwriting; Scott Pellegrom on drums, and pots and pans. Chris Michels also produced, mixed, and edited the album. Dede describes his process as “tying the pieces together” and “wrapping it up like a present.”

Dede wrote the title track a few years back at a songwriting retreat held at Circle Pines Center, The Earthwork Songwriter’s Summit for Resilience, which is soon to be coming up again in January. Encouraging songwriters to explore their role in the world, this song was written with that in mind. It’s a healing song. A reminder to Dede of how she wants to be. The song makes us wonder, what if we could really listen to others but still be true to ourselves? The song starts with these lines.

I am powerful.

I can bend.

I am rooted in truth.

I can speak it.

I can hear your words.

I can bend.

It doesn’t hurt me to hear you.

I can bend.

These words are simple and definitely a call to stop and really listen, think, and challenge yourself. Combine that with Dede’s strong voice and drumming. Mmm, I can’t wait to hear the rest of the album. You can hear a solo version of this title track on YouTube. Dede was in the process (as we spoke) of putting it on Spotify, Apple Music, and “all the places.”

Dede is a teacher. Sisters of the Drum is a newer project for her. It started in the spring of 2022. Wanting to fill a need for students that had completed the classes she offered, Dede created something more for them, and Sisters of the Drum came to be. The group meets for a six-month cycle. Each cycle focuses on a different, specific skill. Over the summer they created six percussion ensemble pieces with vocals - something they could perform in public. The focus for the current cycle is improvisation as well as putting together material to accompany dance groups.

“There's a famous quote,” Dede shared. “‘If you don’t see it, you can't be it.’” She wants to put this project out there, for it to be seen as a possibility. She added, not too long ago there weren’t very many female drummers out there. “In the early 80’s and in the 70’s women percussionists were nonexistent, and now there’s a bunch of girl drummers, and I’m like WOO HOO!”

Duo One is Dede and Josh Holcomb. They have been working for the last 2.5 years on the musical retelling an ancient story, the great flood myth. It’s called The Arc of Hona, a folk opera.

I love this idea and wonder how it all got started. Dede describes herself as a story nerd. She’s especially intrigued by stories that have endured throughout the ages. Usually there’s an “essential human truth” that gives the story its long-lasting relevance. Dede shared that she had been, “nerding out over the flood myth, Noah's Arc,” and really thinking about what the underlying teaching was. She believes it points to humans’ role as being stewards of the earth. “We have to preserve the life that lives here,” she stated. “We have a job to do here.” So, they combined this message with the environmental change that is happening and created their own original story.

This original story is “not super preachy,” according to Dede. A folk opera! (I know I’m repeating myself here but I'm impressed and so excited to hear it live.) It will be released in two parts. They are starting with the songs, releasing them in May 2023 at the Livery in Benton Harbor. With part one, Dede said “you won’t get any storyline, and will need to draw your own conclusions.” The duo is hoping to release part two in a couple more years. At that time, they will act it out theatrically with some audience involvement. Pretty exciting! “It feels like a Master Work,” she shared. Their creative process sounds as if it provided lots of joy, but also hurdles and some hard work to go through. Look for “Little Bean,” an incredibly sweet song from The Arc of Hona on YouTube. Dede’s voice is more playful here and perfect for this song.

At the end of the interview, Dede spoke about what drives her to make music. After having the break due to Covid, and digging a little deeper into the music, she realized “what I want to do when I’m performing, or teaching, or whatever it is I’m doing, is - I want it to be like medicine. I want people to come and be more connected to their spirits, to their hearts, to their souls. A lot of that is just me getting out of the way.” She wants her listeners to know that she is present with them. “I’m really here right now, and I'm here for you. We’re here together. This is a thing we’re doing together. It’s an exchange,” Dede shared. “This is the reason why I do what I do.”

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