But Enough About Me...
"Music is well said to be the speech of Angels" - Thomas Carlyle (Essays. The Opera)
Childhood: Classically trained as a percussionist and bassoonist, music has played a large part in Dennis' life from the very beginning. Dennis recalls his childhood growing up in the St. Louis, Missouri area, the oldest of three children. "One of the clearest memories of my early years is that there was always music in the house. My mother played the piano and my father had a large album collection, of which, most were classical music. Most Sunday mornings, we were awakened to music ranging from Beethoven, Bach and Mozart to Johnny Cash."
Dennis began his training early in life when at the age of 9 he persuaded his parents to let him take drum lessons. It was during this time that rock-and-roll was really taking off in America. The Beatles had taken the United States by storm and had even played a concert at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. "I took drum lessons at a local music store", recalls Dennis. "There I had a young rock drummer as my teacher. The name he went by was 'Boing', no last name. He wanted to teach me to play a drum set and his preferred method was to play along with current music. My parents were surprised, to say the least, to hear me playing to The Rolling Stones, 'Lets Spend the Night Together'. Unfortunately, he wasn’t my teacher for long."
It was during this time that Dennis' interest in music became a very important part of his life. Dennis and his father built a short wave radio set together. His father explained that he would be able to listen to radio signals from all over the world. However, Dennis found what he was looking for right there on the St. Louis airwaves. "I discovered the radio station KXOK. From then on, I was hooked. The late sixties and early seventies was a great time for rock music. The Beatles were my favorite band, but there was so much new music coming out, so many new groups. It was an exciting time. Once a month, I was allowed to go to the record store and pick out a 45 single. Most of my lawn mowing money was spent on music."
Early Training: Dennis learned to pick out harmonies at a very early age. Dennis recalls his early contact with the concept. "I learned primarily by standing next to my mother at church. She always sang the harmony parts of the hymns. After awhile, hearing harmonies became second nature. The ability to pick out different parts in composition was enhanced as I went through school. I played in numerous symphonic bands and orchestras throughout junior high and high school."
When Dennis entered high school, his musical education took a big leap. "The summer before I started high school, the junior/senior band had played a two-week tour of Austria and Germany and it was all they could talk about. I was very excited about possibly going on a trip in the future. One problem was that very few sophomores got to play with the junior/senior band."
"At the time, we had a glut of percussionists in the sophomore band and our instructor announced that there were a few instruments that he desperately needed in the junior/senior band. That is how I happened to play the bassoon. I learned to read music, learned even more about harmonies, since bassoon parts were mainly harmony parts, and was able to be a member of the junior/senior band which made a two-week bicentennial concert tour in Washington D.C. and surrounding areas."
Rock Music: Despite his classical training, Dennis' love for rock music was still evident. "Because of my classical roots, I developed a love for certain rock bands, which I have to this day", said Dennis. "As I moved through college and into young adult life, I studied my favorite groups, Rush, Pink Floyd, ELO, Alan Parsons Project and of course, The Beatles. I still believe that Pink Floyd’s, 'The Wall' is the greatest rock composition ever written."
In his early twenties, Dennis got together with some friends to form a rock band. Since the group already had a drummer, he took vocal and piano lessons. "The eighties was a great time to play keyboards", recalls Dennis. "Synthesizers played a prominent roll in rock music at this time. I now had a new way to spend any money that I made".
For the next 10 years, Dennis sang and played keyboards with different rock bands in the St. Louis area. Life was very busy. "At the time I was working as a computer programmer at McDonnell-Douglas. I was going to school at night and I also married my wife Cindy, my 'number one groupie' ".
After his graduation from Washington University, Dennis began working for Hewlett-Packard. This job took up a lot of his time and he was required to do a good deal of traveling. "Keeping up with my job, my wife and the band became too much and my music interests took a different course", Dennis recalls. With his friend and guitar playing partner, Jim Baumgartner, a graduate of the Musicians Institute in Los Angeles, they began recording under the name 'Second Sight'. "We decided to write an original rock CD", recalls Dennis. "I had put together a recording studio in my home and Jim and I spent the next year and a half writing and recording songs for a CD entitled 'Words to Earth' ". Unfortunately, it turned out to be their one and only release together. Dennis continued writing and composing on other projects while Jim returned to the club circuit.
Coming Around Again: After playing in rock bands for a decade and putting all of his spare time into the creation of 'Words to Earth', Dennis found that he was burned out. Dennis recalls the moment. "Jim and I played our original songs live at a 10 year band reunion party that we had for one of our original groups, 'Alias'. After that night, I turned off my studio and never touched my keyboards again."
Until now! Since that time, Dennis and Cindy have had two children, Rachel and Eric. Dennis also started his own computer consulting business and even owned and operated a vineyard for some time. But the love of music was always with him. "I knew that someday the circumstances would be right for my return to writing music", said Dennis. In 2001, the time had arrived. By fall, the studio was back, and he had begun again.
During his 'off time', Dennis' musical tastes turned towards a Cinimatic New Age style, which was a logical progression considering his past experience and preferences. His current inspirations come from artists such as Ray Lynch, Kitaro, Mannheim Steamroller and David Arkenstone, to name a few.
Dennis' return to music composition has begun with the music of the 'Territories', a musical soundtrack inspired by Stephen King's Dark Tower saga. "When I began the 'Territories' project, I realized how much I had missed writing music", said Dennis. "There has been a hole in my life for a long time that can only be filled in this way".
The 'Territories' is an interplay of musical themes and harmonies. The use of classical, synthesized and native instruments has become central to Dennis' style. "I am inspired by sounds", says Dennis of his latest work. "Before I even begin a composition, I spend considerable time going through my library of instruments to come up with a unique combination for the particular work I am about to begin. I let the timbre of the instruments decide the path that the song is going to take."
Dennis currently lives in St. Louis with his wife and two children.