Meet Your Musicians – Dean Herington

March 01, 2015

Dean is one of our amazingly versatile local musicians who plays piano, clarinet, and sax. He’s been known to collaborate with many of the usual suspects here in the Triangle, including as one of the original members of FootLoose, and as a musician for TCD’s Community contradance. He plays for English country dancing and international folk dancing. He also arranges and composes—and probably leaps tall buildings in his spare time.

How did you get started playing for contradances?

Soon after I moved to North Carolina in 1978, a work colleague introduced me to international folk dancing in Chapel Hill (to which she had been introduced by her belly dance teacher). I fell in love with dancing and before long started playing the international dance music as well, on clarinet.

A few years later, Pete Campbell, a fellow international dancer and musician, created the McRowdie Ceilidh Band, a Scottish country dance band, in which I played piano. As contra dancing was becoming more popular, Pete, McRowdie fiddler Ted Ehrhard, and I naturally branched out into the contra style and repertoire. In 1989, David DiGiuseppe, Ted, and I created FootLoose as the house band for a dance series that caller Bob Proctor held at Camp New Hope. At Spring Dance Romance that year, Bill Tomczak's wonderful clarinet playing showed me how much winds could add to a contra dance band. When Pete was able to join FootLoose later that year, he took over at the keyboard and I switched to clarinet.

In what ways is playing for dancers different from playing a concert?

When playing for a dance, my goal is to inspire the dancers' movement through the music. The musical gestures have to be big and clear, and the focus is from the stage to the floor. During a concert, with much greater audience attention, the music can be more nuanced, and my focus is more on what's happening on stage with the other musicians.

What do you do when you're not playing music?

I still do get to dance, though not as often as I'd like. My day gig is as a software engineer, which probably explains why I like music and dancing so much. I also enjoy traveling and hiking, especially when I can combine the two.

Petronella claps--hate 'em or just don't care?

Initially I found them too cute. But I've mellowed since then, and even join in myself when the spirit's right.

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