Season 3 Episode 2
Dartanyan Brown, an Iowa Rock ’n Roll, Blues, and Jazz Hall of Famer, came to Grinnell in April 2019 for his first performance in Iowa in 40 years.
Brown didn’t go to Grinnell, but he might as well have, with a meandering, wide-ranging skillset and life that has taken him through the worlds of journalism, music, technology, and education. But before all that, he was a young boy growing up in Des Moines, the son of two musicians, Ellsworth and Mary Alice Brown, from a family who found a home in the historic town of Buxton, Iowa, the coal mining town famous for racial integration and a majority Black population. From his family’s history, Dartanyan has drawn a lot of power and meaning, as well as the value of freedom through education.
He has been putting those values to work as a teaching artist in the Des Moines area schools where he works with students through music and storytelling. The kids have kept his spirit young and vibrant, he says.
“That’s what’s keeping me from being a, you know, an old curmudgeony guy because they’re bringing, they’re bringing spirit, they’re bringing pure life to you and in helping them realize what they are all about...That’s the most valuable thing you can give to a young person and the most valuable thing you can pull from a young person...let them tell their stories”
The beauty he has found in Des Moines’ schools is nothing new to him, however. The world of music has always been where he’s found connection and purpose:
“It’s a perfect sport. It’s physical, it’s emotional, it’s intellectual. It has a science involved. There’s a huge amount of history involved in this, in the music. It’s the most perfect thing I can think of for me to be doing. And it allows me to enrich not only my own life, but the lives of my students and the people who come to see us. And it’s just a, it’s a great way to approach reality.”
Other Resources from Dartanyan:
Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, a diverse coalition of Iowans working together to make the state a better place for everyday people
Iowa Informer, an independent, alternative media source for Iowa politics, news, cultural coverage, and creative content.