"The Blue Door"
"The Blue Door." - The original of this I painted on gallery=wrapped, watercolor canvas. It sold through Carpe Artista's Carpe Cafe, Smyrna, TN as a Christmas gift and is now in a private collection north of Nashville, TN. It was so much fun creating all of the textures on this one. Available for prints and notecards.
My Watercolor Exhibits Linebaugh Library - Smyrna, TN
Fall 2015 Watercolor Library Exhibit
Fall 2019 - Lunchtime Watercolors -
Travel Middle Tennessee Smyrna Public Library (Linebaugh) Exhibit
Artist's Palate - 8.5" x 5.5"
Original Songs by Dann Zehr
(All recorded on a $25 mic & a free Garage Band app on Dann's iPhone 7+!)
Fort Wayne Falcon Interview – Fort Wayne Alumni Center
First of all, thank you for taking an interest in what I’ve been up to since “The Last Graduation.” I am sincerely humbled & honored that you all would ask me to share, so thank you.
What caused you to move to TN?
Well, I graduated with my Bachelor of Music Education in 1989. I was literally the last person to graduate from the school known as Fort Wayne Bible College, since recipients of Music Ed. diplomas walked through the line last. Oh & my last name is Zehr, so there was no one walking behind me. (The first will be last & the last will be first though, so it’s all good! ). By the way, graduation was May 6, 1989 & it SNOWED that day! THAT is why I moved to Tennessee!
Okay, the ACTUAL reason I moved down here started with my Cousin, Mark & his Wife Tracy (Herter) Sumney who are each Taylor graduates. I believe he was working for Benson Records at the time & they were living here in La Vergne, TN (outside Nashville). He sent me an ad from something we used to call a “newspaper.” It was actual paper! The Nashville Tennessean had this classified ad from a male a cappella quartet looking to hire a baritone. They were a gospel group doing contemporary Christian, Jazz, a little barbershop & 50’s doo-wop! Mark thought it sounded like it was right up my alley, so I auditioned. Mark said IF I didn’t make the cut, I was welcome to continue moving south (to Music City) & stay with them until I got settled.
I made the cut, traveled & sang with those guys for 2 & 1/2 years, recorded three independent projects that even included a few of my original songs that we sold at our concerts. We were fortunate to have opened a show with some more well-known bands such as DC Talk, Audio Adrenaline. Focus on the Family had us sing for them three times during my stint and one time was for their new building opening. When I left the group in Summer of ‘94 we were singing someplace 15-20 times a month & booked eight months in advance in 20 states, so I was on the road quite a bit, but having a great time!
During that time in 1992, we did a weekend of concerts at 1st Baptist Church in Church Hill, TN. I met a girl there named Ashley. I really liked Ashley. Turns out I actually loved Ashley & she loved me. I wanted to marry Ashley, but someone asked how that would work being on the road all the time. (They say that the road ain’t no place to start a family....).
So, my roommate in the a cappella group at the time shared Deuteronomy 24:5 with me that said basically, if a man has recently married, he is not to be sent off to war, or have any other duties laid on him for a full year, but he should stay at home & keep his wife happy. So, after long-distance dating for a couple of years, Ashley & I were married on December 10, 1994. SHE is the main reason I’m in Tennessee.
What have you been doing vocationally?
After moving to the Nashville area, I was simply trusting the Lord to guide me because I really didn’t know what I was going to do for work during the few months before Ashley & I got married (maybe it was part faith to move without a job in place, but maybe it was partly youth & naivety!). I started out late that Summer of ‘94 working for a small Christian record label called Clydesdale Music Group that only had a few, mainly instrumental hymns, & niche titles we sold mostly to Christian Bookstores in the CBA Market. I worked there for five years, most of the time as National Sales Director. The title sounds loftier than it was, since it meant that I was responsible for a few phone reps selling to stores across the country. We also had licensing deals with distributors in Norway & South Korea though & I enjoyed the relationships with those Christian brothers in other parts of the world.
I enjoyed my time at Clydesdale (one record label) & am thankful to have been executive producer on a couple of instrumental records by musician / drummer / producer David Huff & saxophonist Kim Costanza, to have introduced a couple of Chuck Swindoll spoken-word CDs to the market, & to have tried to get Bart Millard / Mercy Me a record deal before Provident offered them a much better one! As a side note during that time outside of work, I also got to sing backup with The Chapman Brothers (I went to church with Jim & Herbie Chapman) for Loretta Lynn on the Grand Ole’ Opry, as well as a few other gigs with her in Oregon, opening for George Jones at the Michigan State Fair & twice at her ranch here in Tennessee. Anyway, I was planning to stay at Clydesdale for the long haul, but that company was sold to Malaco Christian Distribution in ‘99 & my job moved with it to Franklin, TN.
I worked at Malaco (10 record labels) for about a year & a half until I got a call to work for a company based in the same building as Clydesdale (CNI Distribution). That company was Servant Music (four record labels) & they were in the process of buying Diamanté Music (53 record labels) of Newport Beach, CA. That company eventually became Butterfly Music / Butterfly Media Group started by former Provident Music Executive George King, Musician Bob Carlisle & others based on the name of Bob’s hit song, “Butterfly Kisses.” I also enjoyed my co-workers, talking to Christian bookstore owners and music buyers from our headquarters there & loved our workspace which was back in Franklin, TN upstairs in “The Factory.” Unfortunately, after three years and four sets of owners the writing was on the wall.
Bottom line, after sticking with Diamanté/Butterfly as long as I could, several factors told me that maybe I should look elsewhere. A friend named Mary Lou Alexander was a California music buyer to whom I sold music by phone for years. She had moved here to work for Spring Arbor Distributors & started selling products herself to my Wife Ashley who ran our church bookstore for nine years! Small world! In Spring of 2004, Mary Lou asked Ashley how I was doing at Butterfly, telling her about a phone rep job that had just opened up at Spring Arbor / Ingram.
She said I was doing fine at Butterfly & thanked Mary Lou for thinking of me. A few months later in Summer of ‘04, with George King & Bob Carlisle unfortunately no longer in the picture, things at Butterfly started to go South, which was when Mary Lou over at Spring Arbor, reluctantly, but nevertheless felt strongly led, to tell Ashley that another job had opened up & that I should send my resume’. I’m thankful that Mary Lou, a strong Christ-follower, obeyed the Lord because the timing couldn’t have been more perfect. I did send my resume, after an intense vetting process I was hired by Spring Arbor / Ingram, I gave my two weeks’ notice on a Monday & "the Butterfly flew away," filing for bankruptcy the next day. Sometimes, as the sheep of His pasture, even though we’re “staying in our lane / trying to be faithful to our patch of grass”, etc. we need to be prodded by the gentle staff of our Good Shepherd because He may even have better patches of grass to show us.
At Spring Arbor / Ingram, I started out in phone sales to the CBA Market, even calling some of the same accounts as I had been calling for the past 10 years. In 2006, a Music Buyer’s position in the Product Department opened at Ingram, but I was only a close second for the job. The hiring manager asked if I’d want to apply for the job vacated by the new Music Buyer as his Product Specialist. I was hired for that position, moving from the Sales Department to the Product Department. Two years later, a Book Buyer’s position came open in that department.
I had not only been working as a Product Specialist working directly with the Music Buyer, but also for two other buyers of Christian products. One of the buyers was taking another buyer’s job & her vacated spot was the one for which I was hired. Soon thereafter, as the music market continued to change, unfortunately for my friend & colleague, the Music Buyer position was eliminated & he was out of a job. That could have been me if I would have been hired for it in the first place, two years prior, instead of coming in as a “close second.” That was yet another example of the Lord’s guidance & “prodding” to me personally. I have been Spring Arbor / Ingram’s buyer of Thomas Nelson, Zondervan (now HarperCollins Christian Publishers) & other products since April 2008. I buy books & Bibles for our four warehouses in La Vergne, TN, Roseburg, OR, Chambersburg, PA and... Fort Wayne, Indiana!
How did FWBC form you growing up with parents who attended and worked there?
Growing up, we lived on Fairfield Avenue, two blocks south of Rudisill and a few blocks away from the college and we were active members of First Missionary Church right across the street from campus so FWBC was in my DNA. My parents met at the Bible College & always had a deep affection for the community. Many of the professors & staff lived nearby so they were our friends & fellow church members who were so much like family. I used to go over to Dr. Wes & Mary Carolyn’s house to trade baseball cards with John & Jeff. Their youngest, Jerry & I were also in the youth group & used to hang out quite a bit during and after high school.
I remember spending New Year’s Eves with our youth group at Marcus Warner’s house, Jenny & the late Barry Bartels’ house or a Komets hockey game at the Coliseum. One time when a group of us was hanging out playing games, eating at Barry & Jenny's, Marcus made a comment that the other day he & his Dad, Dr. Timothy Warner, were discussing the nature of God. Barry said, "Wow! When I get together with MY Dad, we talk about cars."
Jim (Jimmy) Hughes (Dr. Robert Hughes & Betty’s Son & John’s brother) & I used to lift weights & go jogging together. I remember when we were in Jr. High, walking to see the first “Rocky” movie at Quimby Village & being so inspired by the movie that we ran all the way home, no doubt imitating Rocky running up those famous Philadelphia steps. I also spent quite a bit of time in Founders gym playing volleyball, basketball with so many friends & families associated with the college & “First Church.”
Ira Gerig & my parents knew each other for a long time, he was such a great friend of our family, he & Dad used to sing in the Faculty Four Quartet together, he also taught my Sister Brenda piano lessons, taught me voice lessons for 10 years & I also mowed his lawn during high school. I remember also mowing Jay & Shirley’s lawn on occasion before they moved to their house on Rudisill. I think I even remember babysitting their boys Ryan & Alex! I’ll never forget how Jay Platte, Dennis Campbell (a great friend & Music Minister at First Missionary at the time who I believe also taught a class or two at the college?), Ira, Bill & Joyce Gerig along with so many others, were there for our family & me when my Dad went to be with the Lord. I was a sophomore at the college then.
What I take away from growing up around all of these people was their faithfulness & dedication. They may never know how important their Christian witness was to me, but the Lord knows. I remember celebrating both milestone wedding & milestone ministry anniversaries of 50+ years. That kind of longevity & faithfulness makes an impact on a young person. Of course, my own parents have also been those examples to me.
What are some of your memories of the college as a youngster and then as a student?
Too many to mention, but I guess I answered that one too early in the previous question. I have so many great memories, though. Since my parents owned Hoosier Heritage Antiques right next to Schmidt's Drugstore, I was there quite a bit. I remember W.O. Klopfenstein would sometimes wait in front of the shop and told me one time that he had just lost a friend, so when I asked him who it was, he just grinned & said, "Adam." Ira (Gerig) used to come over on his lunch hour occasionally to visit my Dad at the antique shop. Ira's "lunch" consisted of a can of dry-roasted peanuts he had just bought at Schmidt's that he'd share with my Dad & me. That's a great memory.
Do any particular individuals come to your mind when you think of the Fort Wayne campus?
I had so many great profs, but especially those in my Music & Bible classes. I will probably unintentionally exclude some if I start naming names, but I loved them all & I’m so thankful for their influence & examples to me. I think of my roommates Rich Andrews, Scott Holmes & our “honorary roommate” because he was hanging out with us there most of the time, the late Bryan Heindel. He was one of my favorite people, also one of my groomsmen, who stood up with me after traveling from Ohio to our wedding in Tennessee, in the middle of his chemo treatments, on crutches...I’ll never forget his friendship & the good memories I had with Bryan. The cancer unfortunately won out before Bryan’s 30th birthday (“I cried when I wrote this song / Sue me if I play too long” - Donald Fagen).
Did you make art in/before college as well, or is this a newer thing?
I have mostly started trying to make art in the past 20-25 years or so.
Is the artwork a hobby, or is this your full-time job?
It's just a hobby for me. Although I’ve probably sold 35 to 50 original pieces over the years, some as commissions, as well as some cards, prints & calendars in local shops, I’d have to charge more & be more proactive about selling if I were to make a living at it. Sometimes I'll post a painting on social media which is when I've had requests to buy them.
If someone wants to see more of your art, where can they look?
This website was created when I was asked to do an exhibit for our local library a few years ago, so it's a place where some of my work is on display online.
Here's a blurb from the "About" button on the site:
"Dancing Colors (Dann Sings Colors) has sold his own line of paintings, prints, calendars & cards locally in a few Middle Tennessee shops. His work is also in Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Florida, California, New York, Washington, Arizona, Belgium & Ethiopia. His first juried competition earned him a cash prize and second place recognition with artists & art lovers throughout the Middle Tennessee area."
(I really need to update this site & add some new paintings!)
What inspired you to make art?
Another big influence for me in college & one of my favorite classes was “Intro to Art” with Sonja Strahm. I really loved learning about the masters & she taught us to see the differences with them, their styles, took us on a field trip to the Chicago Art Museum, etc. While my Mom had bought me a little watercolor set as a child that I wore out, and about 20 years ago my Wife gave me the great gift of a more elaborate art set, and I had seen paintings created by both of my Grandpas when I was younger...once I saw the enormous pointillistic “Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte“ by George Seurat & originals of Monet & other impressionists at The Art Institute in Chicago, I was hooked.
What can you tell us about your family (wife, children, etc.?
Ashley and I just celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary last December & we have three children. She teaches Pre-K four days a week at our church's "Creative Learning Center" & and is also a Social Worker who works for individuals with intellectual disabilities and mental health diagnosis.
Elijah, 22, just moved out of the house in May this year with two other friends from church to a nearby duplex. He’s a senior now at Middle Tennessee State University in Business Administration & very active at our church, www.lifepointchurch.org and plays drums with our praise bands.
Macklin is 19, just finished her first year of college at MTSU, plans to teach school with an ESL concentration and we are thankful to still have her at home. Sophie is 15 & about to start her sophomore year of high school. We love having them around & can't believe how fast they have grown up. We are very proud of them & thankful that they all love the Lord. They make us laugh & give us so much joy!
How did your studies prepare/relate to what you are doing?
Well, I’d say having a double major degree that included Bible as a major as well as Music Education has definitely impacted my worldview. C.S. Lewis said it really well when he said, “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen; not only because I see it, but because by it, I see everything else.“ I am currently reading through the Chronological Bible in a year & my studies at FWBC absolutely gave me a hunger for His Word because once you start studying the Bible you continue to see how much you don’t know! And even though I’m not teaching music in a school, I have used my music theory, ear training, etc. hundreds of times in musical settings over the years. I regularly helped lead worship at Lifepoint Smyrna, TN for 18 years.
Since 2015 I have been singing with another all male a cappella group www.nashvillesingers.org whose mission it is to “enhance the world through singing and the support of music education.“ Two of our founders are international gold medal barbershop quartet champions & that group has definitely helped sharpen my musical abilities. So, “a vocationally” while I’m not directly teaching school, I’m singing with a non-profit group that supports music education through scholarships / grants & “vocationally” I’m able to use my Bible training as a Christian book & Bible buyer. Soli Deo Gloria.