Dadtet: Playing through their way through parenthood

Photo Provided:
The Dadtet group pose with their children shortly before setting up for a performance.Photo Provided: The Dadtet group pose with their children shortly before setting up for a performance.


Gazette Reporter

NISKAYUNA- Parents usually agree that once you have children, life changes drastically.

The local jazz group known as the Dadtet certainly agrees with that sentiment, but they’ve found a way to keep some things unchanged through the dramatic life change that parenthood brings about.

“We formed Dadtet about two years ago, but many of us have been playing together for much longer than that,” Mike Lawrence said of the group.

Currently ‘Dadtet’ has seven members all of whom are local teachers or residents.

Together, they have 11 children ranging from seven months to 10 years old.

“We are neither the young lions, nor venerable jazzmen, but we are solid, experienced jazz musicians and educators who are dedicated to our craft and raising families at the same time,” said the group’s pianist and teacher at Schenectady High School David Gleason.  

Ben O’Shea, another member said that the group first got together when they began playing at one event, “Almost all of us play in Keith Pray’s Big Soul Ensemble, which is a jazz big band in residency at the Van Dyck in the Stockade on the first Tuesday of every month.”

Even though it’s tough for them to get together for rehearsals, the group meets whenever they can at one of the schools they teach at or sometimes, like this past week, in one of the band member’s basements.

That was where Dadtet rehearsed before their show at the Niskayuna Town Hall on Thursday, July 21.

“We do a lot of arrangements with some older pieces,” Lawrence said.

O’Shea, the trombone player in the group said, “While there are some active composers in the group, most of the tunes we play are arrangements of more well-known and less well-known jazz standards.”

Each member teaches at a school in the capital region (Dave Fisk is the only Niskayuna teacher in the group) and they find that the same joys they get out of teaching can be found when they’re performing.

“I  just enjoy bringing some joy into the lives of students so they can see that they can achieve things through music and hopefully apply that to life and that’s what we do as a group when we perform,” Lawrence said.

Gleason said that his experience as a musician made it natural for him to want to share the skill through teaching.

I think they recognize that music is a language and are drawn to it as a lens through which they can make sense of the world. Once that happens and they develop their “linguistic” skills, I suppose they become a musician. Many people help them do that along the way, and they are often great music teachers,” Gleason said.  

As the group’s size is a bit large for jazz group, the Dadtet’s find it difficult to book shows with the entire cast.

But that usually works out for the better as their teaching and parenting schedules already have them quite busy.

They play in Schenectady at local restaurants and at the Van Dyck. They also play at Schenectady’s Jazz on Jay and in the Rotterdam Summer Concert Series.

This will be their second year playing at the Niskayuna Town Hall Concert series.

“This venue is just great because the kids just get to run around and there’s usually some sort of vendor there . . . plus for a lot of people, it’s only a short walk away from their home,” Lawrence said.