What can I say? I'm a Bard! I walk the land, singing songs, telling tales, and doing good deeds! I play all sorts of instruments like the Renaissance Lute, the Egyptian Oud, Elizabethan Cittern, Turkish Laouta, German Lautenguitar, Medieval Gittern, Puerto Rican Cuatro, Mandolin, Penny Whistle, Bodhran, and of course Trumpet. I perform at small and large Sci-Fi/Fantasy Conventions like GENCON INDY, GARYCON, WINDYCON, 3CON, DUCKCON, CODCON, ACEN, and C2E2. I'm the Music Director of the Bristol Renaissance Faire where I perform all summer. Yes, I do birthdays and weddings.
I also do a lot of mainstream music and storytelling in schools and libraries with my partner Judith Heineman. And I'm a founding member of The Whiskey Brothers Irish Band! I grew up in Schaumburg, IL, and was (and still am) a Dungeons and Dragons playing Band Geek.. I went to Illinois Wesleyan University for my undergrad, with the intent on being a band director. Somewhere during that time, I got it into my head that I wanted to be a bard, but I didn't know how to start. So I got my Masters Degree in Renaissance and Medieval Music from Florida State University. Upon completion of the degree and my thesis, The Ap Huw Manuscript and the Welsh Bardic Tradition, I announced that from that day forth I would walk the land, singing songs, telling tales, and doing good deeds.
Unfortunately, that didn't pay the bills. So I'm also a band director! Ha!
There's more blathering below if you can't get enough.
Dan the Bard with Dylan Robertson at the Bristol Renaissance Faire in Wisconsin!
Dan the Bard with Judith Heineman performing Grimm's Grimmest, the Darker Side of Fairy Tales!
Look! It's me with The Whiskey Brothers! Jeff, Gary, Jim, Dave, and me! Slainte!
Still reading, eh? Very well. Here's some more life story if you insist. So I finished grad school, did some performing and had this crazy idea to mix music and storytelling the way the Welsh and Irish bards used to do. I was directing and performing at the Virginia Renaissance Faire back in 1999, and I taught myself to play chords on the lute while telling stories about King Arthur, Lancelot, Celtic Legends, Pirate Princesses etc... I was extremely excited because many of the chord patterns I used were from the Ap Huw Manuscript, the only Welsh Bardic music ever scribed (oral tradtion, you know). Finally I took out a loan and spent over $5000 at a recording studio creating my first CD, To Walk the Land. I knew in my heart of hearts, I would quickly make all the money back.
Only I didn't. Either my performances of the songs and stories did not warrant mass purchases, or people didn't want a CD with only 8 tracks, even though it was an hour long.
Back to the drawing board.
To get me out of my sales depression, I started writing songs that I never thought I would perform. We were playing 3rd edition at the time (2002, maybe?) . That's 3.0 to be exact. Good job Skip Williams!. I had this crazy idea to make a D&D song about each of the 11 core character classes. I had no idea why I wanted to do this, only that it would be fun. So I wrote Fred the Ranger, Tom the Barbarian, Don't Mess with the Druids, a Paladin in Hell, The Monk Song (which I never recorded...my Zenzadunk song was written much later.) When Jack was a Boy, The Party that Died, Morton the Sorcerer, The Spellcraft Song, Brother Macalaster, and Loretta the Thief. I made a cheap CD on my computer and gave the cd to my friends for their review. Everyone like it, but I didn't know where to perform these songs! At the time, the Bristol Renaissance Faire was very strict about song lyrics and singing about D&D would not have been appropriate.
But some of the songs did work at Bristol. I altered a few of them to be mainstream Renaissance Lyrics, and added them to a collection of love songs and drinking songs I had been writing on the side. Thus my second CD, Unicorns and Dragons was born! This time, I had it figured out. The CD would have plenty of tracks, and it would be fun. Everyone would buy it. I even saved money (sort of) by recording in a home recording studio (still cost me $5000, but I could reuse the $3000 recording system so it seemed worth it if I made more cds.). With my new cd in hand, I took to the streets of Bristol to sing and rake in the cash.
Except no one wanted a CD just because they heard some random minstrel sing a single song and fished for tips. Once again, not a best seller.
Then a very interesting change occurred at Bristol. We added a semi-fantasy larping RPG guild called RenQuest. It's awesome, by the way. I soon be became their resident bard and sang some of my "at the time" forbidden D&D songs in their area of the faire. Everyone like the songs, and I had a single stage show, and I thought, what the heck? Just try one of these out. I sang Fred the Ranger. I sang it pretty well. The audience laughed a bit, and the show ended, and that was that. But two brothers from Michigan, Jon and Roger Wiedyck, were also there, and stayed after to talk to me. They told me that was the single coolest thing they had every heard, and would I write songs about their characters...for money. MONEY!
Validation. Inspiration. Destiny. To Walk the Land was too much of a niche. Unicorns and Dragons was too general. But soon, my third and most successful cd would arrive, MANTICORES AND OWLBEARS!
It turns out there were gamers everywhere. We were all in the dice closet. All of the musicians and most of the actors at the faire were all gamers. A large number of the audience were gamers. Gamers rule.
And gamers are intelligent. Which means the older gamers had jobs. Good jobs. And they could afford a cd!
I digress and maybe I'll embellish more later, but in a nutshell, here is what happened after that. Got a gig at GENCON (thanks Bob Brinkman!), the Faire allowed my geeky songs, I was asked to play smaller cons in the area, and I recorded BARD CAMP! I'm working on Epic Lute, right now, and I will never stop writing these songs. It is the most fun I have ever had, except perhaps slinging dice with my friends. Writing songs about D&D is like a 9 year old with a giant pile of legos, except that I build sound instead of plastic.