On Sundays, J.D. Dorland leads worship at a church near Tacoma, Wash. During the week, he teaches piano lessons. But on Thursday and Friday nights, he haunts small cafes and bistros around Puget Sound, playing and singing jazz.
Dorland is an unassuming 30-something who likes Oscar Peterson, Diana Krall, Frank Sinatra, and the music of the Great American Songbook.
He grew up in a Christian home and graduated from Pacific Lutheran University, where he earned a degree in music with an emphasis on jazz piano.
Dorland says the improvisational nature of jazz allows musicians to display the creative tendency God gave them.
“Just the idea of creation, of being a creator of music, either music or painting or words or writing or whatever, I mean that’s definitely a characteristic of being made in God’s image,” he said.
His church work gives him a natural way to start talking to other musicians about his faith.
“It’s very easy for me as a musician to say I play at church and to kind of bring that up,” he said.
But the other key to opening the door of discussion is simply being good at what he does—as jazz musicians put it, “having chops.”
“When you can hang with the band and they call you back for those gigs, you actually get the chance to … express that you are a Christian. I mean, I don’t have a big cross on my keyboard”
This summer, Dorland already has several gigs lined up at area cafes.Next month, he’s performing at a reelection fundraiser for a Washington state senator.While the cafe diners may be focused on dinner and the political folks on dollars, Dorland will be focused on making his music gently swing.
Listen to Dorland play music and discuss life as a jazz musician on The World and Everything in It: