Dandelion Stompers

SPARC concert brings Dandelion Stompers to Spencer

This dish calls for a dash of saxophone, a sprinkling of vocals, mixed together with trumpet, trombone, guitar and a whole bunch of other flavors.

Added all together they make up the sound of the Dandelion Stompers, an Iowa City-based jazz ensemble who will take the stage at the Spencer Community Theatre from 2-4 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 27, for the SPARC Alumni Concert.

In this case, the alumnus is Devin van Holsteijn, who has played alto saxophone for the Dandelion Stompers since 2017.

Van Holsteijn grew up outside Fostoria where his introduction to music began with piano lessons. It was in fifth grade that he first began his foray with the saxophone.

While he was home schooled, van Holsteijn was also dual enrolled in the Spencer Community School District where his musical education would take place. Unlike like most young musicians who start on alto saxophone, van Holsteijn began by picking up his dad’s tenor saxophone at home.

“Janet Boyens who was the elementary director at the time let me do that and I had a great time. Then in middle school I started jazz band which was a lot of fun and where I developed a love for jazz — especially because saxophone has a lot of good parts,” van Holsteijn said.

That love for jazz was solidified on a trip to France when van Holsteijn was about 10 years old.

“Because my dad is from Holland originally we did a lot of traveling growing up,” van Holsteijn said. “There was this specific moment I heard this band playing early 1920s music at a street market in France. Gig Street was the name of the band. I bought a couple CDs and wore them out and that’s where I really developed my love for the music we’ll be playing at this concert.”

After graduating in 2009, van Holsteijn’s path took him to Drake University in Des Moines where he earned degrees in music business and business management with the intent of working in arts management. He also expanded his instrumental repertoire playing in jazz band, orchestra and symphonic band with baritone saxophone and all the different expressions of how the saxophone is used.

It was also when he got to know the alto saxophone for the first time.

From there it was off to Cedar Rapids working for Orchestra Iowa while earning an MBA through University of Iowa.

It was during his next stop, working at Hancher Auditorium in Iowa City, that van Holsteijn made the connection with the Dandelion Stompers.

Their previous alto saxophonist also worked at Hancher was leaving for a new job. He said he’d be recommending van Holsteijn for his spot, but that it was no guarantee.

After sitting in on a rehearsal session one day and getting an opportunity to play, he’s been with the group ever since.

Now the audience in Spencer gets a chance to check out the Dandelion Stompers in person.

“I’m really honored to get to do this,” van Holsteijn said. “I play music because I really enjoy it and I’m glad other people get to enjoy it too. I’m excited to see a lot of familiar faces in the audience and to get to share a little bit of what I’ve learned both in Spencer and since I’ve been away, and bring this whole new set of people who’ve become part of my life back to Spencer and show off a little bit of what we enjoy doing.” He noted that it as with the praise team at Hope Church where he first started working some of the skills he would bring to the table with this new ensemble.

“The saxophone lends its own soul to all kinds of music. We would figure out ways to fit it into all kinds of church music — we just made it work and it was a whole lot of fun,” van Holsteijn said, “That’s where I learned to improvise over all types of things, adjust in the moment and add something to a piece as opposed to just playing something written for you.”

That’s how it works with a Dandelion Stompers performance, which van Holsteijn says is largely improvisational.

“You can expect a lot of tasty New Orleans-style jazz,” van Holsteijn said. “Our lead singer Katie Roche is a wonderful storyteller and leader and brings a stage presence and class — she fills up the room in a way I haven’t seen a lot of singers do. We’ve got the rhythm section laying down a solid foundation, and the rest of us add all the tasty goodness to make it New Orleans style-jazz. It’s like eight best friends having a conversation all at once.”

Van Holsteijn has fond memories seeing performances growing up as part of SPARC’s predeceasing concert series, something that he says was definitely a factor inspiring him to pursue music.

Now it’s his turn to help inspire future musicians.

“Spencer is a great community to grow up in and has so many great people,” van Holsteijn said. “I’m excited to be part of that again for an afternoon, and I’d tell people to be ready to dance — this is dancing music.”