He's also a family man. Another Approach Music, his record label, stresses a family-friendly sound. He has a restriction on profanity in his music and thinks if you can't make music without vulgarity, you shouldn't make music at all.
A retired military veteran from Baltimore, Van Dyke came to Fort McClellan after a stop in Germany. He's played live music in this particular part of Alabama for years and doesn't have plans to quit. His ministry might require him to leave Oxford from time to time, but this is his permanent stage.
He talks to The Star about the joys of recording as a band, people's reception to Christian contemporary music and his label's no-profanity rule.
What's next for Van Dyke in terms of touring and live shows?
Right now, what the Van Dyke band is going to be doing is just sitting tight and waiting on the Lord to tell us what the next move is. In the meantime, we're going to be working with the Historic Downtown Anniston Business Association to soup up the entertainment that's in the Anniston/Oxford region.
What makes Calhoun County a strong environment to play live shows?
I'm from Baltimore, Maryland. I'm retired military. I retired at Fort McClellan after I came from Germany. I was always a musician and always doing live entertainment. My understanding was that years and years ago, this used to be a stopping-over point for a lot of famous R&B and jazz recording artists. B.B. King would stop over. James Brown came through the Anniston and Hobson City area. Then, all the sudden it just fell off because of the rise of disco and hip-hop, and there were no other places in Anniston for that type of listening audience to come and hear the groups that were legends. So Anniston and Oxford are prime target areas right now for revitalization of the entertainment scene. I believe we can make this happen by bringing in great entertainment.
What are your favorite venues to play in town?
Personally, the marketplace. When I say the marketplace, I mean anywhere the Van Dyke band can go and minister, because we are a Christian contemporary jazz group. So we're not going to be inside the church walls a lot of times simply because of the type of music that we play, even though it's Christian. A lot of the Christians around here are still stuck with old-time music. In order to reach certain people, you have to go out there in the marketplace and give them something they can relate to, but at the same time, give them good ministry.
How is Christian rock music received in this area?
I think it's received very well after they listen to the message. If there's a message in the Christian music … I think they're really receptive. With our kind of music, I'd hope to cross all kinds of cultural barriers, racial barriers, denominational barriers, all of that.
On the Web site for Another Approach Music, you stress that no profanity will be found on your label. Why do you think that's an important emphasis for young listeners?
The no-profanity rule on my label is utmost important because of the message that you're sending to the young ones, and let's say even to the adults. When you send out messages, you don't want to send them out with profane words or vulgarity belittling anyone. Positive messages all the time. The way I figure, if you cannot write a song without putting profanity in it, then you need not to be writing songs. If you can't write a song without putting vulgar messages or subliminal or negative messages in there, then you don't need to be writing that song because it goes to the kids of the listeners, no matter what age they are. You'd be surprised. A 3-year-old or 4-year-old that is subjected to listen to this type of music with vulgarity or profanity around the house, that is part of their lifestyle already being set right there.
You also stress the certain feeling of band members playing together in a recording studio. What gets lost when musicians take individual turns recording different parts to songs during sessions?
If you're working by yourself and doing separate tracks, that works really good. But when you have a band that's in there and they're gelling together, that means you're catching the moment when that great riff is happening, or the great groove. When you start to do it individually by tracks, sometimes it's just not feeling right. It's so mechanical. It doesn't flow.
You're extremely selective in who you consider to record on your label, but you say you're always looking for niche artists and niche material to catalog, publish and distribute. How does that selection process work?
First of all, if I don't feel comfortable with having the artists around my family, then I don't feel comfortable with them being on my label. If I do not want my daughter knowing this individual, then I don't want my label knowing it. In other words, you have to start somewhere in business and take your mind and heart off of the dollar bill and start looking at substance. Don't sell out for the money. It's not discrimination. It's just being selective. You've got to start somewhere. Do I want this on my label to represent a Christian label?
What steps can you and others take to develop the outreach opportunities your music can generate?
I'd like to really work a lot closer with the performing arts entities here in Anniston and Oxford, which we are getting ready to start doing. I'd also like to bring the churches together because a lot of times churches polarize themselves by thinking they have the only existing music program, choir or band, and they don't want to form a community or pool all of their resources to make great things happen around here. I think my label will be very instrumental in doing this along with the Historic Downtown Anniston Business Association.
Do you think you'll continue to develop your musical projects and initiatives in Oxford, or does your work equire you to be more mobile?
A little of both. I am set up to go mobile because I am a performing musician. I am set up to go mobile to do recording, very selective recording. It depends on the environment. I don't want to go into a place where there's alcohol and drugs and everything and try to do a recording. That's just not what we're about.
This story is the fifth in a series that will examine Calhoun County's arts and entertainment scene. The Anniston Star surveyed members of the community who play prominent roles in delivering residents with high-quality entertainment options about their craft and how they feel about the local entertainment scene. The series will feature local musicians, fine artists, filmmakers, arts educators and public figures who make entertainment decisions in the county. The mission of the series is to offer an introspective look at this area as a cultural attraction in Alabama and the Southeast. The Star takes a look at local entertainment's past, present and what it could and should be, seen through the eyes of the entertainers.
Related articles All that jazz: Drummer encourages a more worldly view for local entertainment
Theater guru Dobbs does 'beauty on a budget'
'Go out and see the shows': JSU media adviser weighs in on local entertainment
Filmmaker Keener happy where he is
James giving back with Super Saturdays
New gallery opens in Jacksonville