I was recently privileged to sit down with Dean and Dudley Evenson, founders of Soundings of the Planet. We sat in the front room of their cozy yellow house in the woods, surrounded by instruments, plants, books and stunning views of a lush green forest outside. Along with the occasional tinkling of bells and chimes, only one of their CDs softly playing in the background broke the idyllic silence.
Back in the 70s, when I was still trying to figure out where to go to college, they were creating music, videos, art, dance, writings, children and food – all with one goal in mind: to create peace and heal the planet.
While they are quite prolific in the areas of audio and video, I am going to focus this article on their music (Dean and Dudley’s involvement with the creation of public access television via cable systems is a book all by itself.)
I am a believer in their mission. Friends since we first met in 2001, I had subconsciously been drawn to them as a fan of their music through yoga classes, and when receiving a massage or acupuncture treatment.
Years ago, I don’t recall when or why, Dudley gave me a copy of her yet unpublished book Living the Dream: The Peace Through Music Story. An interesting and compelling 200 page read, it overwhelmed me with facts and dates and names of well-known and well-respected people whose paths they have crossed. It emphasized for me how amazing these two human beings are how lucky we are to have them living in our little corner of the world.
Creating “Peace Through Music” has always been their life mission, and is the tag line of the company. You may even have seen it in print, stuck to car bumpers and guitar cases around Whatcom County.
Theirs is a sweet love story. Dean, a native New Yorker, had ten years of classical flute instruction as a child, and says he learned to play piano by ear. He received a Master’s degree in molecular biology from the University of Maine, but his real interest was always music, and that brought him to New York City, where he first met Dudley.
Dudley hails from Virginia and was “into dance.” She studied photography in Japan before moving to New York. They met in 1968 when they lived in the same apartment building. Dudley used to dance in the empty apartment directly across the hall from hers, until one day, the apartment wasn’t empty anymore, as Dean had moved in. They became good friends, realized they both wanted to use media to make the world a better place and slowly and deeply fell in love. Although Dudley had no musical training, Dean suggested she try an open tuned harp. She took to it very well and now plays it on many of their recordings. She also plays the tambura and drone instruments.
Since 1979, they have been envisioning, producing and sharing their gift of music reaching millions of people all over the world. They started Soundings of the Planet in Arizona and, as Soundings grew, Dudley used her writing and art education to market and do the art direction for the albums. At one point, Soundings had 22 employees. Now they have five employees as they outsource their shipping and hire independent contractors for graphic design, additional video editing and consulting.
Sound engineer and violist Phil Heaven has been with Soundings since the mid-90s. Phil might be the first one to roll his eyes when I tell you he is one of those guys who can do anything, but it’s true. We met in the Soundings studio in Fairhaven, also nestled in the woods surrounded by natural and lush vegetation and wildlife. The studio is filled with tape decks, mixing boards and some equipment they rarely use but, “might need to get at that sound we recorded way back when.” Walls and shelves are filled with master tapes, hard-drives and many awards and accolades for the music they have created and produced over the years.
There is a sound in 99 percent of the produced music that is uniquely Soundings, and that’s Dean Evenson. The Soundings label has produced about 80 CDs and videos, and Dean appears on all but a handful of them. I own a few myself, all of which are available on their webpage and through Amazon.
Soundings releases about two to three CDs and videos each year and the concepts come from collaboration. The most recent CD released is “Amber Sky” with Dean, Phil, and keyboardist and bass player Jeff Willson. There are additional projects in the works, one featuring percussionist Tim Alexander of Primus, who has been a fan of Soundings for 20 years. The working title is “Rhythm and Bowls.” Another is a collaboration with local Native American flautist Peter Ali.
“We are in a new era now,” says Dudley. “Dean has almost 195k monthly listeners on Spotify alone and millions of plays of various tracks. One quarter of a half of a penny per play adds up.” It makes paying royalties challenging, but Phil built an impressive formula in an Excel spreadsheet. They well-utilize the many different Social Media avenues, streaming on sites like Apple Music, Spotify and Pandora, as well as Facebook and Instagram. “They have more than 26K subscribers to their YouTube channel, with music videos and video instruction on the healthy living wisdom they have been cultivating.
As Dean and Dudley approach having spent nearly 50 years together, Soundings’ next major production is their first book, Quieting the Monkey Mind. It’s a “how-to” for meditating with music, creating a place to meditate and incorporating such things as chakras, mantras and yoga. Written by both Dudley and Dean, the release date is slated for February, 2018. It will be available through the Soundings website and in book stores. “There’s nothing like that out there,” said Dean. “It’s user friendly.” The book has already been endorsed by musicians, therapists and TV personalities in the arts, new age and humanities world.
I completed my interview and sat in my car, ready to turn the key to go home, when I realized I was experiencing a great sense of peace and calm, just from being in their presence. I don’t know if Dean and Dudley would consider themselves having lived charmed lives, but things always seem to work out for them. “Go with the flow” is a philosophy that they live by, and it’s ever-present in their demeanor. “Everything will work out when you have a strong sense of purpose and stay focused on your dreams,” wrote Dudley. Always move forward and always do your best with kindness, graciousness and good intentions.