Dennis Hawk is a musician, yoga practitioner, and flute-maker whose motto is “wellness through music.” Much of his material is spiritual and meditative. His most recent release is a collaborative track with Johann Kotze titled “Spirit Awakening” that came out in October.
ME: How did you get involved with Wisconsin Music Ventures?
DENNIS: Well, I had to get permission from Allison to tell you this, but since both of us are very open about our recovery – I met her in a 12-step meeting (laughs). That’s where our friendship started and then we realized we had all this other stuff in common. One thing led to another and then I got on board with Wisconsin Music Ventures, so here I am.
ME: That’s awesome. You meet great people with that kind of stuff. I met great people doing my outpatient mental health hospitalization this past summer.
DENNIS: Absolutely, and I’m glad to have met her and be on board.
ME: Tell me about your most recent song on streaming platforms, “Spirit Awakening.”
DENNIS: That was a fun piece! I got to talking with a guy in South Africa named Johann Kotze, and we had a lot in common with us both being yoga teachers and musicians, so I asked him if he’d like to start collaborating on a piece. We started trading files back and forth and eventually it became what it is. So it’s got a little bit of South Africa and a bit of North America in it.
ME: Very nice.
DENNIS: One of the great outcomes of quarantine has been the collaborations, globally. That was one of them for me.
ME: Yeah, it’s made us recalibrate how we work with people. We need to still socialize somehow.
DENNIS: Absolutely (laughs).
ME: Speaking of you being a yoga teacher, I know that your motto is “wellness through music.” I was curious if you’d expand on that; what does that mean to you?
DENNIS: Well, let me start where I started, which was when I was thirteen years old picking up a guitar for the first time; it was a $13.50 Stella guitar that I bought from a pawn shop in my hometown of Atchison, Kansas. Escaping from the chaos, abuse, and alcoholism of my own home, I found my room to be a great escape. I would learn music off of the AM radio and would have to wait for the song to come back around (laughs) and that’s how I would learn music. It was for my own mental health right there, and I survived my alcoholic home that way. It’s always been a go-to for my own personal health. That’s how it kind of evolved. The flutes that I make are for meditation and health, and then I became a yoga practitioner at the beckoning of my vocal coach Janet Planet, who is a well-known Wisconsin jazz player. She said “Dennis, you’ll sing better if you get on your mat” and so that brought me to yoga, and music and yoga started to merge, so that’s where I am today.
ME: Super cool. As is any creative process, you’re making something out of nothing. You’re developing meaning through expression, ideas, and feelings. It’s the difference between things making sense and things not making sense. It’s really awesome how much of an integral role it’s played in your life.
ME: Here’s a fun question. What’s your favorite tourist attraction in Wisconsin?
DENNIS: Because we’ve played there so much, I like the Milwaukee Art Museum. We used to do a yoga gig there on Saturday mornings – pre-COVID – and we’d get up to 350 yoga practitioners out at that venue. The acoustics were interesting and fun at the same time, and it’s also a great tourist attraction.
ME: I could see it being a solid place to hear some music, for sure.
ME: My last question is, what are you working on now?
DENNIS: I’m glad you got there. Through Wisconsin Music Ventures I met Dave Schoepke, and so he and I are currently working on a yoga project. I want to make it clear that “yoga music” is just music, and so when I teamed up with Dave Schoepke, we started doing this album called “Yoga Tribe.” With his ability to create on drums and my ability to create around that, this is turning into an awesome project. I’m grateful to Wisconsin Music Ventures for introducing me to him.
ME: Yeah, he’s very talented. The music he’s put out is so ahead of its time.
DENNIS: It’s been an adventure.
ME: I’m looking forward to hearing that. Do you have any gigs coming up?
DENNIS: No, I’ve made a commitment right now to producing music full-time and making flutes. Will I ever do live music again? Maybe. But the time has to be right.