Musician and instructor Dale Largent talks to Teafly about on the role of musicians in Central Oregon, how that has changed over the years and the importance of music in our lives and on our brains.
Dale Largent gave up music twenty-three years ago and moved to Bend. But he did not give it up for long, and within the first year of living in Bend, he began playing again, luckily for us. A classically trained percussionist, Largent has been an active member of the music scene in Bend, teaching in various schools and showing up on the stage with Tarrka, Brent Alan and his Funky Friends and perhaps most notably The Moon Mountain Ramblers, with whom he has played regularly for more than twelve years.
On Moving to Bend
Having grown up and lived entirely in the Midwest, I knew I wanted to get out to someplace with mountains. I got here on August 1, 1996. I got the truck all unloaded and the boxes were stacked up. Then it was August 2, and it was a gorgeous day and I thought, “I cannot unpack these boxes, I must go out!” So, I go up into the mountains and explore. And August 3 was a gorgeous day! So I went out and explored and this went on for two weeks. And then it occurred to me, “Wait, every day is going to be gorgeous, I must unpack these boxes even if it’s gorgeous.”
On Finding Music Again
I started playing music at age 5. One of the most disappointing things that I ever grabbed out of adults in my community when I was growing up and/or in popular culture was the message that musicians need a day job. I wasted so much money and time trying to have a day job when I could have just been making money as a musician. Very early on when I was first living here and exploring, a new music store was opening. The owners were there and invited me to come in. They were super friendly. They asked me about my music and I told them, “I quit music for the third and final time.” And the owner looks at me and said, “Then why are you in a music store?” I told him, “I don’t have an answer for you. That is a profound question. Why am I here?” A couple days later, I called up the store and said I’d like to teach, which I had done before. Ever since then I have been a professional musician. But trying to pull it all together is fascinating.
On Learning Through Teaching
Rather than having a day job, I taught music. That has become the thing that sustains me. Even if I am not on stage or practicing music with my band, I am immersed in the craft. There is no better way to get better at something than to teach it. The basics I put my students through, I go through 100 times in a week. If I was on my own practicing, I may only go through them ten times in a week. I think I am significantly better as an artist because of all the teaching I have done.
On Live Music
In Bend I feel like the number of stages that musicians can play on has dramatically changed in twenty-three years. The downside is that the pay has gotten worse. We do not create musical venues, we create brew pubs that decide to have free music so they can compete against the other pubs that have free music. I hear talk in this town so frequently about how we support live music. And on the one hand that is completely genuine. People show up for local artists, and I am very proud of our community. On the other hand, they almost never pay a single dime for that music. That is my experience. This town really supports its local artists with their attendance and appreciation but not with their dollars. And I don’t think it’s their fault, because they aren’t asked to pay.
On the Ups and Downs of Change
I still appreciate that with Bend having all this growth, I still feel community here. It feels very like a community kind of place, but it is the feeling of community as opposed to the actual community. [It used to be that] I had to leave an extra twenty minutes early for anything because we were going to know somebody and we were going to visit. That human connection that I really cherished in Bend—only through growth, not in attitude—I think has been lost. On the upside we have really good restaurants! I used to crave going to Eugene or Portland to get good food. Now I can walk out my door and be very happy about any of the places I have to chose from. The Grove closed, but we got Spork! So, hey that’s a fair trade.
On Finding Your Place
If you are truly driven and passionate to spend your time and energy playing music, then you should definitely do it. Your challenge, as anyone entering a career, is to find the way, the place and the path to do that. I think what is different about what I understand now at age 51 is that there are many places to fit yourself in and there are many ways to fit in. It might take a few of those places pieced together in various ways, but you can fit. You do fit.