Earthwork artist profile Vol. 2: Dede Alder


I've never left the dreamy grooves & soulful spirit of a Dede show without a bounce in my step & a smile on my face. Knowing that she is in the midst of launching some exciting new projects, I was eager to hear what this longtime Earthwork-er has been up to.
-Chris Good


1. As a versatile & talented percussionist, vocalist, and songwriter, you've collaborated with many artists as well as leading your own group, Dede & the Dreamers. What are the current projects you're digging your creative energy into & what makes each something special?

Being a percussionist and songwriter is a strange combination. Being a mallet percussionist and songwriter is maybe even more rare. In 2018, I'm really trying to step up my game, my professionalism, and really show people how unique and beautiful this combination of percussionist/songwriter truly is. I just launched my new website which will be added onto throughout this year. However, my entire discography is up with live streaming and all of my projects and booked dates are listed on the webpage. There is so much more to come too!

My current musical project Dede and the Dreamers has remained a complete joy unfolding. We are a band of kindred spirits that love to just have fun and explore together on stage. You will see us smile big, joke, surprise each other, and ourselves. Each performance with the Dreamers is truly a beautiful unfolding of the present moment and it's potential. We live in three different cities, so regular practice is hard to come by, so when we perform is really is very spontaneous. These guys are one of a kind: Chris Michels on Bass, John Driscoll on Percussion, and Josh Holcomb on Viola. I have, as of last year, switched from playing vibraphone to playing marimba at our shows, which gives the music a little more rhythmic punch and a warmer earthier quality. The band is playing a bit lighter this year, as Chris Michels is expecting a daughter, Maple, in May: John Driscoll has his baby Rowan, who will be one year old this summer: Josh and I have our daughter Ayo who is a year and half now. So the Dreamers all have baby Dreamers!

I've started a new project, dede & the dream, with Josh Holcomb which is doing a lot more looping and really creating tight compositions and songs. We also tend to lean towards more obscure covers of shoe gaze or indie reggae bands. This is a collaboration where I still do a lot of the singing and songwriting, but the interplay is more worked out. We have been talking a lot about the theatrics of our performance and are looking to create some really fun performance drama. This duo show is a new creation and we are playing our first festival show at Buttermilk Jamboree this year.

2. As a longtime Earthwork-er who has been involved in leadership in many arts & cultural projects across the state, it's clear that being deeply involved in your community is important. Why is this a focus for you, beyond just the shows & the records, and what are current community-based projects you're involved with?

Being involved in local and statewide community is what I live for. Please! Let's collaborate!

My recent move to Kalamazoo has been tough for me. I grew up in Traverse City and moved to Ann Arbor, both unique, creative, and kind of trendy, vibrant economy kinds of towns. Ann Arbor seems like Traverse City's big sister in the state. So moving to Kalamazoo, a more post-industrial Michigan city, with a pretty conservative population has been a real cultural shift. Plus, I came and had a baby right away; it's pretty hard to make friends when you can't leave your house! That deep sense of community I flourish on, was lacking. However, what felt like a closed group of cool people is slowly starting to open up to me and I'm beginning to find my place here in Kalamazoo.

One place I've carved a little spot for myself is in the Arabic music community in Kalamazoo. Maybe you haven't heard of it? Well, that's because there wasn't much of one until last year! In 2017, I with 4 other members formed a group called the Bahar Ensemble. A professional instrumental Arabic Ensemble! Bahar means spring in both Arabic and Persian. The back story is this: Two Kurdish musicians in Kalamazoo: Bashdar and Ahmed wanted to help some Syrian Refuge families that were coming to Kalamazoo. So they started an orchestra called Orchestra Rouh, where they are teaching these children how to play violin and cello, all of this is underwritten by the KSO. Bashdar and Ahmed also wanted a place to play their classical music, so they started an ensemble. This is where I came in, I've been studying middle eastern and mediterranean percussion for a while now. Now Ahmed and our ensemble are starting an Arabic Orchestra at K College, and I'm going to start teaching Orchestra Rouh group percussion lessons, which they are all very excited about and so am I!

I've also been the acting Music Director at Circle Pines Center, just north of Kalamazoo, for a couple of years now. This 300 plus acre wooded co-op has been in operation for 80 years! It has a huge legacy of activists, musicians, freedom fighters, and cooperative creators coming through there. It's so amazing to be able to work with them on building up their musical culture. I am able to organize special events such as the Songwriter's Summit, a weekend retreat to take a look at the current state of the world and work together in solidarity to create songs that can wake people up, touch their hearts, and inspire them. That was a wonderful collaboration between Earthwork Music, Buttermilk Jamboree, and Circle Pines Center and we've already selected the weekend for January 2019!

I've also just started to organize other community workshops as well: I'm getting involved with Rootead Community Space and the Suzuki Academy to teach percussion workshops for people of all ages. I'm starting a Lil Bean baby class at Suzuki Academy, as well as starting to teach private lessons, which will be really fun. All of these teaching and workshop opportunities I'm pursuing, is such a wonderful service to the students! Drumming and playing music is so good for our whole being; mind, body, spirit. In this time of even more disconnect, and even more glossing over the realities and hardships of our lives, having a place to play, to hit things, to express ourselves is such a priceless gift. It is always an honor when I step into the role as teacher to help facilitate each persons deeping. It is sacred, it is mundane, it is life.

If you are interested to attend any shows, workshops, lessons, or would like to host one of those, please be in touch with me through my new webpage or contact me through EarthWork Music. It is such an honor to be walking this world with so much deep community care and commitment. We are all doing the work, and all those pieces are coming together for a beautiful whole. I know the hole of what needs to change and be done right now is overwhelming, but just like a tiny seed that grows, lets plant and tend to those seeds in our community. Lets nurture them to grow, and lets do our best to take care of each other.