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Donovan Stokes

Donovan StokesDr. Donovan Stokes enjoys a varied career of performing, composing, writing and teaching. Stokes is currently Professor of Music at Shenandoah University-Conservatory where he teaches classical and jazz bass, coaches chamber music, directs the Bass Ensemble and acts as head of the String Area. He is a member of the Board of Directors for the International Society of Bassists, President of the Virginia String Teachers Association, former member of the National Editorial Committee for American String Teachers Association and founder and Artistic Director of the Bass Coalition and their Annual Bass Workshop.

His recording Gadaha garnered two JPF Music Award nominations and rankings, for Best Album and Best Instrumental Song. Described as a musician who “paints primary colours and subtle shades to considerable effect” (The Double Bassist), Stokes is also noted for his “eye-popping display of technical wizardry and showmanship” (Madison Jazz) who brings “the bass into yet another dimension of capabilities.” (Gary Karr). He also writes a regular column “Lowdown with Dr. D,” on bass and performance related matters, for notreble.com.

As a chamber musician he has had the honor of collaborating with wonderful musicians including the Fry Street Quartet, Agua Va!, members of the Audubon Quartet, Stuart Malina, Blanka Bednarz, Eriko Sato, John O’Connor , David Oui and Seymour Lipkin. As a composer he has enjoyed recent commissions from Orquesta de Baja California, Barry Green, Blanka Bednarz, The International Society of Bassists Young Bass Division, the Valdosta Symphony Orchestra and Jerry Fuller, among others. He offers a online instruction in upright bass and composition and has created an Upright Slap Bass Instructional Video available exclusively online.

Dr. Stokes earned degrees from Vanderbilt University (B.M.) and Indiana University in Bloomington (M.M. and D.M.), where his major bass instructors were Lawrence Hurst, and Edgar Meyer. He studied fiddle styles with Crystal Ploughman and Mark O’Connor, string pedagogy with Lawrence Hurst, Helga Winold, Inez Wyrick and Mimi Zweig, and composition with Michael Alec Rose, Michael Kurek and Mary Jeanne Van Appledorn. He is also an expert in the life and work of bassist Rodion Azarkhin.

Visit him on the web at donovanstokes.com and Youtube.

Articles by Donovan Stokes:

  • Improving Practice: 4 Pitfalls to Avoid in the Practice Room

    Improving Practice: 4 Pitfalls to Avoid in the Practice Room

    We learn and grow musically from a variety of sources. Teachers, performances, fellow musicians, etc. all play a role in our progress, but our most direct improvement comes from our time in the practice room. That’s why spending time practicing each day is so important. Sometimes, however, even when are putting in time daily, we... »

  • Making a Living in Music

    Making a Living in Music

    I get a lot of questions from aspiring musicians on how to make a career in music. There isn’t one answer to this, and everyone’s circumstances are different. However, below are some of my more general suggestions for those considering a life in music. Specialize I’m usually talking to upright bassists, so I generally suggest... »

  • Musical Goals and Self Evaluation

    Musical Goals and Self Evaluation

    For those of us involved in formal education, the end of the year is a time for evaluation in all our classes, e.g. final exams, papers, presentations etc. When it comes to instrumental study, most students play what is known as a “jury.” This is performance by the student for panel of faculty. The charge... »

  • Improving Troublesome Passages: Five Tips for Bass Players

    Improving Troublesome Passages: Five Tips for Bass Players

    Continuing our series of “Tips” columns, here’s one on breaking down troublesome musical passages. 1. Take it Slow Practicing technically difficult passages at slow tempi is nearly essential for mastery. Learning something at a slow tempo is learning it well. Doing so helps us avoid unconscious errors such as incorrect notes, fingerings, rhythms, errant string... »

  • Freelance Gigs: Five Tips for Bass Players

    Freelance Gigs: Five Tips for Bass Players

    The last “Tips” column (on avoiding injury), was a popular one. So let’s continue this series with some tips on freelancing. 1. Be Musically Prepared If there is sheet music, review it. If there are recordings, listen to them. As much as possible, be familiar with all the parts. Be acquainted with the melodies, harmonies,... »

  • Avoiding Injury: Five Tips for Bass Players

    Avoiding Injury: Five Tips for Bass Players

    As bassists, our health is important, and paying attention to our routine is paramount to avoiding injury. Here are five tips to keep in mind to staying healthy and injury free. 1. Stay Loose Keep those joints flexible and muscles moving. Excessive tension is the enemy. Upright players tend to have problems in shoulders and... »

  • A Few Tips from a Traveling Bassist

    A Few Tips from a Traveling Bassist

    Performing on the road as an upright bassist can be both a rewarding and challenging experience. Here are a few tips I’ve learned on, and picked up from colleagues, to help things go smoothly. Be Physically Fit We don’t need have the physique of an Olympic athlete, but having a certain level of fitness will... »

  • Five Things to Remember to When Moving from Electric to Upright Bass

    Five Things to Remember to When Moving from Electric to Upright Bass

    The electric bass and the double bass (aka Contrabass, Kontrabass, Contrebasse, Upright bass, Stand-up bass, String bass, Doghouse bass, etc. etc.) are cousins. It seems intuitive that one plays both instruments. After all, we share a range, number of strings (generally) and a tuning (most of the time). However, the constructions of the instruments differ... »

  • Getting Back in the Practice Room: Regaining Inspiration

    Getting Back in the Practice Room: Regaining Inspiration

    Everyone who stays at this music thing for a time will likely find themselves lacking in motivation at some point or another. If practicing has become a chore, or if you can’t even bring yourself to pick up the instrument, perhaps some of these strategies might bring some fire back into your musical life. Take... »

  • Starting Back Up on Bass After a Long Break

    Starting Back Up on Bass After a Long Break

    Even those of us who maintain a regular practice routine may find ourselves taking an extended period of time away from our instrument. Vacations, travel, illness, work, incarceration, etc. can keep even the most dedicated musician away from their instrument. With an instrument as physically demanding as the double bass, we would be wise to... »