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Derrick Doty

Traditional & Acoustic Music
Email:[email protected]


Derrick Doty is a native Kansan who has been playing traditional fiddle and banjo for over 25 years, and teaching music for over 20 years. Hearing stories of his great-grandfather playing fiddle for dances in the barn on the family farm inspired him to pick up the instrument. Over the years, Doty has played fiddle for barn and contra dances at Wichita, Newton, Salina, Lawrence, the KC area, and many small towns throughout eastern Kansas.

Doty plays fiddle in Tallgrass Express String Band, a folk group in the Flint Hills of Kansas that has provided entertainment for nearly 20 years. The group features songs about the culture, nature, and history of the Flint Hills written by Flint Hills Balladeer Annie Willson. He continues to teach private fiddle and banjo lessons out of his home in Manhattan, Ks. Doty also teaches workshops and visits public elementary school orchestras, music classes, and colleges to talk about the history of music in Kansas and play traditional music. At the beginning of this year, Derrick was added to the Humanities Kansas Speakers Bureau and shares his program on Kansas’ Music History throughout the state.

This program features a variety of music and history using traditional fiddle tunes with stories of early Kansas fiddlers, banjo, fife, guitar, and song, mixed with stories about Kansas natives or residents who went on to influence the nation with their music and songwriting. Audiences not only get a tasteful selection of music that is often new to them, but they also get an introduction to fascinating aspects of Kansas culture, music traditions, and musicians like Perry Lowery, Carson Robison, Wendall Hall, and Byron Harlan, to name a few.

Doty is currently writing a book about Kansas Music History which focuses on the informal traditions from the Territorial era up to the age of radio. The focus of this work is on an often overlooked and underappreciated part of Kansas’ history and culture. The work is an attempt to preserve and share these rich stories with the public, create awareness of the importance of preserving this part of our heritage, and cultivate an appreciation for continuing these traditions. Doty has been composing and arranging music for many years.

In 2011, Doty published a book of his original fiddle tunes and more titled Barber’s Rant. In addition to original compositions, it includes three pieces by another Kansas fiddler, Charlie Laughridge, and one traditional tune passed down in Chase County. He has made arrangements for string quartets and brass bands of mid-19th century pieces for historic balls. Another of Doty’s interests is organizing, calling, or playing for 1860s-style formal balls. In addition to Tallgrass Express, Doty has played with a number of bands over the years. His first was the Threshing Crew where he grew up near Lyndon, Ks. Later on, he played fiddle and tenor banjo with Instant Grits, a dance band that played frequently in NE Kansas. During two years living in Ithaca, NY, Doty played with Finish band Metku.

Primary Program Description

Kansas’ Music History: A Humanities Kansas program sponsored by HK. Sometimes, however, folks prefer to not go through HK for this program and find other ways of funding it. This program is one hour in length, with PowerPoint, music, and storytelling throughout, exploring early Kansas music and musicians both formal and informal. Fiddle Workshop: These workshops are often geared toward musicians with formal training, but all levels are welcome. In a group setting, we learn to play traditional fiddle tunes by ear, without the aid of written music.

Breaking a piece down into short phrases, groups can quickly learn a simple tune and bowing patterns. Then, we explore variations using alternative phrases, double-stops, and simple ornamentations. Other topics include seconding, chords, theory, bow holds, shuffle, technique, etc. Concert: Whether a public performance or a private house concert, a variety of fiddle, banjo, and singing gets the foot tapping and folks singing along. Sometimes solo, sometimes as a duo or trio with talented musician friends as the venue requires. With a wide repertoire of old-time traditional to contemporary tunes, sing-along songs, both familiar and fresh, audiences get a taste of music they won’t hear every day.

Program Fee

The fee for Kansas’ Music History is $300 within 300 miles from home and $500 beyond 300 miles. A Fiddle Workshop fee is determined by travel, number of students, and number of sessions/days to be taught, and whether or not it is in conjunction with a performance. It’s best to contact for details. Concert fees start at $300 but vary widely depending on travel time, number of musicians performing, length of performance, and whether or not sound will be provided.

Educational Activity Information

The fiddle workshop provides students with the tools they need to learn a tune without the aid of written music, in an impromptu setting. Teaching them to listen for short, repetitive, or familiar phrases that reoccur throughout the piece, helps make it easier to learn by ear and memorize a tune. A basic understanding of theory, chord progression, etc. make it easier to improvise when you don’t know the melody.

Students will learn how to second, and explore variations, which is a great way to demonstrate the folkloric process of tunes changing over time. Additionally, I almost always intersperse music instruction with history, either about the music, instrument, or the area where the tune comes from.

Community Activity Information

Aside from a performance or workshop, a meet and greet or Q/A time can be provided. This often gives the audience and community a chance to ask questions and learn more about the instruments, traditions, and stories they may not otherwise get to hear.

It’s also a great way for the community to be able to share their own family stories of musicians and dances, which I’m always documenting for posterity.

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