Dan Charness ’10 won first place in the folk/acoustic category of the Indie International Songwriting Contest for his song, “Summertime Delight,” which he also arranged produced, recorded and mixed.
A cellist since the age of four, he Charness was a Phi Beta Kappa history major at Wesleyan and has recently moved to New York City to pursue a career in music. Two weeks after arriving, he landed his first gig in the City—at Caffé Vivaldi on Nov. 7, in Greenwich Village.
While Charness spent his earlier years immersed in classical music, he used his four years at Wesleyan to develop further breadth in his musical interests—including a thesis on the Beatles and Baby-Boomers, with Professor of History Ron Schatz and Professor of Music Eric Charry as his advisers; an internship at a recording studio; and three years in The Spirits, Wesleyan’s traditional all-male a cappella group.
“I joined the Wesleyan Spirits as a sophomore,” he recalls. “That was a turning point—one of the best musical experiences I’ve ever had. You can really develop as a musician with that group.”
Additionally, a Richard A. Miller Summer Experience Grant through the Career Resource Center allowed him to take a summer internship at Rounder Records, where he learned the business side of the music industry, another key ingredient to his current situation.
“Seventy-five percent of my day is spent on the business side of my music—that’s a shock to most people who think they want to pursue a career in their creative field. It’s a business venture: I hate to call it that, but in order to keep playing music professionally, it has to sell.
“However, at Wesleyan you learn there’s no aspect of anything that you can’t do—if you have the confidence to do it. I’d never scored a string quartet—but I’d played enough of them and wrote one for ‘Summertime Delight.’ I’d never put together cover art for an album, but I’ve figured out how to do that too with the help of a fellow Wesleyan student, Ben Kuller ’11.” His new album, Brand New Day, will be out later this year.
When asked about the level of autobiographical disclosure in his songs, both his thesis work and Facebook inform his perspective.
“Artists reveal a lot about themselves, and occasionally that’s a painful thing to do,” he admits. “My songs are deeply personal, but that doesn’t mean they only apply to me or those I write about. The Baby-Boomers fell in love with the Beatles and with the lyrics that they felt applied to their own lives.
“It’s complicated,” he adds. “People our age put information about themselves online—but not our most personal thoughts,” he says. “A song has the most intimate disclosures, and it’s extraordinarily permanent; it can get stuck in your head. I’ve learned to say, ‘I don’t regret putting it out there, and I don’t take it back.’”
Read about Charness choosing to be a musician online here.