Get to know ... Dan Saulpaugh, music instructor at Darien Arts Center
DARIEN — Music has always been a part of Dan Saulpaugh’s life.
“It was in the house growing up,” said Saulpaugh, the new music instructor at the Darien Arts Center.
The 28-year-old Bronx, N.Y., resident said his father was a jazz pianist and played in local jazz and rock bands. The first instrument he learned to play was a guitar, which remains his favorite to this day.
“I started playing when I was 7,” he said. “I picked up a bunch of other instruments along the way. I play drums and I play bass in a lot of bands in New York.”
Saulpaugh leads the Young Composers workshop class at the Darien Arts Center, where he teaches kids from fourth to 12th grade how to compose classical music. He also offers a Rock Ensemble Workshop. Through this workshop, students will form a band under Saulpaugh’s direction and play music ranging from 1950s rock and roll to modern indie rock. In addition, he teaches private music lessons for children and adults in guitar and voice at the center.
The group workshops will take place on Saturdays and private guitar and voice lessons take place on Tuesdays, as well as Saturdays.
Visit www.darienarts.org to register for the Rock Ensemble Workshop and to learn more about programs offered at the Darien Arts Center.
“Teaching is really gratifying,” Saulpaugh said.
Saulpaugh graduated from the City College of New York with a bachelor’s degree in jazz studies for guitar. Coming out of the jazz tradition, there is an idea around handing the torch to the younger generation and continuing tradition, he said. Teaching falls right within this idea.
“It’s great to be in a situation where I can be teaching younger people and showing them how to love and enjoy music as much as I have,” Saulpaugh said.
Teaching also gives him an opportunity to sharpen his own skills. Returning to basics allows him to revisit the fundamental nuts and bolts of the art form, he said.
“For me it’s great for my playing and writing,” Saulpaugh said.
Growing up, he loved the shred style of the 1970s and 1980s. The fast, technical style of proggresive metal was also a favorite. Over the years, the music he listened to would expand.
“Your influences change so much,” he said. “I’ve been playing 21 years now. So it’s developed a lot.”
The first concert he went to at age 12 was to see Santana, another one of his childhood influences. At that time, he was also introduced to jazz guitarist Pat Metheny, who would also become a major influence for him.
“That changed everything for me,” Saulpaugh said.
Pursuing a career in the arts can be challenging, Saulpaugh said, and there are tradeoffs for following a passion. He spent many nights busing tables and working coffee shops; however, he said he is now in a great place with the ability to split time between his two passions: teaching and music.
“I couldn’t imagine doing anything else,” he said.
Saulpaugh has already released his first album, “Before the Fire Is Gone,” and is writing music for his next album. His decision to pursue music as a career has also impacted his personal life, through connections made and places visited while following his passion.
“So many of my closest friends I’ve met through music,” Saulpaugh said. “It’s shaped the places I’ve wanted to live and have been able to live to make a living.”
His career took him from New York to Los Angeles and back, while also teaching him a variety of skills outside of just playing an instrument.
“Like being a band leader is its own whole set of things you need to know how to do,” he said. “It has a lot to do with logistics, how to communicate effectively with your band, how to book a show, how to have a web presence. All this extra musical stuff.”
Saulpaugh plays guitar and bass in bands when he is not leading his own projects. Whether working with bands or on his own solo music, constant work allows him to improve his skills daily.
“Every gig you take you learn a lot from that gig,” he said.
Saulpaugh said the lessons he learned from music could also help kids in life, even if they are not considering making it a career.
“One, it puts you in touch with your basic humanity. Two, it gives you skill sets that can be applied to whatever you do in life,” Saulpaugh said. “So I think it’s inherently valuable.”