Creating with her audience

The Dana Reason Trio will be performing Jan. 30.

The Dana Reason Trio will be performing Jan. 30.

Not every mother would consider giving their toddlers piano lessons, but when Dana Reason began showing an aptitude for the instrument, her mother did something unusual. She gave up her own piano lessons, and sought out a teacher with the patience, and the courage, to teach a 3-year-old.

Reason is still honored by that parental sacrifice, and today, as a professional musician and an instructor in the music department at Oregon State University, she is also enthusiastic about sharing her love of music with young people.

By the time she was a fourth grader, growing up near Toronto, Reason knew that she wanted to become a professional musician. She envisioned herself as a classical pianist, but an early interest in jazz and a transformative experience at the Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan altered her musical course. Reason began to focus on composing and performing classical and jazz pieces, and went on to complete a PhD from University of California, San Diego. At the same time, she also became part of the trio “The Space Between,” performing with one of the 20th century’s most important experimental composer/performers, Pauline Oliveros.

Dana Reason Trio

Dana Reason is performing with the Dana Reason Trio this Saturday, Jan. 30, 7 p.m., at the First Congregational Church in Corvallis, 4515 S.W. West Hills Rd. The event celebrates the release of Reason’s latest album, “Revealed.”

For many years, Reason has enjoyed balancing performing with teaching. Most of her current workload involves on-line courses, which she said is perfect for balancing teaching and touring.

“I’ve always been a person who is very interested in the intersection of the theoretical and the practical with music. I love to talk about music and music history but I’ve always worked as an artist myself.”

In fact, Reason believes that being an actively performing musician benefits her on-line students, who get to hear first hand about her experiences on tour.

“I can be in any town, and I can be working and talking with my students,” she said. “I can share the cultural experiences of that particular city I am in with in class.”

This term, Reason is also teaching an honors hip-hop class with OSU Professor Michael Coolen. She’s taught hip-hop on-line before, but teaching it in the classroom gives the students a more hands-on experience.

“This last week we had a graffiti artist, Jacob Moore, who is actually an OSU student,’ come in. He did a demonstration and everyone got to do graffiti (on paper),” she said. “It’s just really fun to learn about different styles of tagging in graffiti and get to express it first hand. It’s very different than just reading about it.”

Another popular course Reason teaches is on the Beatles. She believes music provides the opportunity to talk about much more than just songs and rock stars.

“Music represents a lot of things,” she said. “It’s about place, community, politics. We can discuss music in terms of a lot of cultural and historical events that are also happening. In the case of the Beatles, you can learn about the ‘60s, the evolution of rock music.”

The digital era has heralded an even greater appreciation for music in young people, Reason says, because they have access to so much music in their daily lives.

“Students, more than ever, love music,” she said. “They have their iPods on all day long. Music matters for them, it’s an outlet for them. And as a listener you sometimes become the person who picks up an instrument.”

And while Reason loves introducing her students to things they’ve never heard before, she also enjoys learning from them as they bring their own excitement and experiences to the classroom.

“As an artist, working with the students is helping me understand what I need to bring to them, like hearing a pianist or musician play an instrument live and not just listen to recorded music on their iPod,” she said.

She would like to see some of her students attend her upcoming concert so that they can experience the magic that happens during a live performance.

“I think about it as creating with the audience,” she said. “They’re there with me and that moment is a very special moment to be together. The type of music I create depends on the audience interaction.”

Live performances also elicit lively classroom discussions.

“I’m hoping students will come to see the different ways you can be in life,” she said. “You can love different aspects of a subject and bring it to people in different ways. And of course I would love to talk to students about what they noticed, or if they got inspired to check something new out on their own… I hope it can be a learning experience and something that’s moving for them and touches their lives in a new way.”

For more information about Reason’s work, see

~ Theresa Hogue

One Response to “Creating with her audience”

  1. Elana K Arnold says:

    Dana’s music Saturday night was amazing and so full of life! What a pleasure to see one of OSU’s own doing what she does best. We surely are fortunate to count Dana Reason among our cohorts here at OSU.