All About Dr. Dave

All About Dr. DaveDr. Dave started playing the piano at age 6. His sister had been playing for some time and he found the piano irresistible, so, his parents started him in lessons. Although not classically trained, his early teachers instructed him in chord theory and in applying that to improvisation. At 12, Dave’s elementary school music teacher put him in touch with Steve “Stubby” Heist, a local ragtime performer at a pizza parlor. “Stubby” quickly took Dave under his wing and started him in classical Ragtime. For the next several years, Dave could be found frequenting the pizza parlor to practice his new found Ragtime skills. At 16, Dave began his professional career on the St. Louis Riverfront excursion boats. Playing regularly, from solo spots to 5-piece groups, helped Dave hone his improvisational skills.

Here is where the story takes a brief musical pause. Dave began college, graduated from the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine in 1986, and began practicing in Indianapolis, IN. Soon, thereafter followed the start of his family and an eventual return to St. Louis to continue his veterinary career. It wasn’t too long before the “Ragtime Bug” struck again, and Dave returned to the St. Louis Riverfront and to his spot in the Don Scherrer Banjo Bands. In that role, he has performed at every VP Fair on the St. Louis Riverfront and continues to perform on the excursion boats to this day. However, it was not until his entrance into the St. Louis Stompers Classic Jazz Band in 1998, that Dave got serious about music again. He currently performs with the Stompers both in St Louis, as well as at national festivals from Florida to California. While holding down his spot in the rhythm section, he also does most of the bands arrangements. Most recently, Dave has joined Red Lehr’s St. Louis Rivermen and Powerhouse Five Traditional Jazz Bands and has been honored with the late Trebor Tichenor’s spot in the St. Louis Ragtimers.

But what about Ragtime? It was Don Franz, the tuba player with the St . Louis Ragtimers who should get the credit, or the blame, for that return. It was he who introduced Dave to the late Jan Hamilton Douglas and a quick, but brief, friendship was forged. With Jan’s urging, Dave started practicing and learning new rags. That experience, and his relationship with Don Franz, led to finally meeting the great Trebor Tichenor and Al Stricker, two other members of the St. Louis Ragtimers. With Trebor’s assistance, Dave gained an invite to the Scott Joplin International Festival in 2000 and hasn’t looked back since.

Dave has appeared at the festival in Sedalia every year since and was named the 2007 Artist in Residence for the Scott Joplin Ragtime Foundation. He has also been the Artistic Director in Sedalia form2008-2015. He has retired and is now just one of the gang again. Simultaneously, he was the Music Director for the Chippewa Valley Ragtime Festival, in Eau Claire, WI, from 2010 through 2014. Dr. Dave has performed at the Blind Boone Ragtime Festival in Columbia, MO, regularly makes appearances at the Chippewa Valley Ragtime Festival, where he was a headliner in 2007, the Grand International Ragtime Festival in Alexandria Bay, NY, and Zehnder’s Ragtime Festival in Frankenmuth, MI. He regularly performs at the Scott Joplin State Historic Site in St. Louis, MO and performs concerts throughout the country. November 2010 marks his first appearance as a featured soloist at a traditional jazz festival when he takes to the stage in Clearwater, FL, at the Suncoast Dixieland Jazz Classic.

Dave also was the president of the Friends of Scott Joplin, the local ragtime group in St.Louis for many years. So, the next time you see Dr. Dave, and he looks a little frazzled, you will know why.