Artist of the Week: Aron Dunlap

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When the Shimer School joined the College in 2017, North Central gained a new, diverse addition to our population. Poets, musicians, writers and philosophers joined our ranks, and songwriter Dr. Aron Dunlap is one of them.

Dr. Dunlap arrived at the Shimer School of Great Books in 2011 and continues to teach at NCC after their consolidation in 2017. A professor of the liberal arts, Dunlap leads Shimer classes in humanities and the social sciences, as well as the IDS course “A Songful History of American Politics.” Additionally, Dunlap will teach an introduction to philosophy class this spring. 

Dunlap earned undergraduate degrees in music and cultural poetics from Seattle Pacific University and a Ph.D. in religion from Temple University. He is part of an informal musical evening taking place on Fridays from 4-5 p.m. in the lounge at Seybert where Shimer folks congregate.

Grace Klooster: What instruments do you play?

Aron Dunlap: I play guitar, fiddle and harmonica. And I sing.

GK: Have you ever been in a band? If so, what genres of music did you play?

AD: I’ve been in a few different bands that cover two or three different genres. My first band was one I joined in college, in Seattle. It was a rock band called Sidney. A few of the members moved to Philadelphia in 2000 and started a more electro version of this band with the name of Kandy Whales. I joined another band in Philly called She-Haw. As one might guess from the name, this one was more country-oriented. Probably most folks would call it alt-country. Around the same time, I started to write my own songs under the moniker Good Dust, which has had different members over the years. Currently, Good Dust features myself singing and playing guitar/harmonica and my wife, Pauline Sachar, providing the harmonies.

GK: What inspired you to begin playing music?

AD: I played the violin and sang in church as a kid. I started learning the guitar on my own when I was 18 and started writing songs without thinking about it too much. Joining a band in college and being exposed to my friends’ musical tastes made me think about my music more seriously, leading me to start imitating songwriters like Bob Dylan and Paul Simon.

GK: Who are a few of your favorite musicians and why?

AD: Biggest influences on my songwriting are probably Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie and Robert Johnson (not that I sound much like them). Recently, I’ve been discovering the endless depths of Duke Ellington. I don’t sound anything like him either, but I’m definitely learning a lot from his tremendous originality and the surprising way in which he approached old standards.

GK: Do you have any favorite memories associated with playing music? What are they?

AD: I always think of some of the moments writing songs with my first band, Sidney. We tended to write songs collaboratively, and, while getting five people to create something together made for quite a few headaches, when it worked it was pretty magical — a moment where creation, performance, listening and expressing all merge together.

You can listen to Good Dust on SoundCloud.

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