Dick Connette took piano lessons in 3rd grade, but he found the big-note children’s music insipid and he quit after a year. When he was in 7th grade he had a vision—the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show. He got a drum set, and for the next six years played in a series of rock cover bands. The summer after high school graduation, he and some friends made a four song demo. The plan was to become rock stars or go to college. He went to college. In 1974 he graduated from Harvard with a degree in General Studies, concentrating in Music and English & American Literature. During his college years he also took private lessons in piano, theory, and composition.
Connette then moved to New York City, got a day job, and for the next three years studied snare drum, marimba, and timpani with James Preiss, a principal in the Steve Reich Ensemble. In 1977 he moved into a basement in Soho, built a recording studio, and immersed himself in the downtown avant-garde art scene. By 1979 he quit his day job, and became a professional musician. He composed for modern dance, theater, performance art, film, and video, toured nationally and internationally, and even played and recorded with a post-punk rock band. A few years later, Connette began concentrating on presenting his own music concerts, appeared live and on the radio with John Schaefer’s New Sounds, played Central Park SummerStage, got grants from the NEA and Meet the Composer, and won a Bessie (Downtown Performance Award).
By the mid-80s Connette had become disenchanted with the avant-garde, and began researching, then working with, then writing songs and music based on traditional American folk. Eventually he put together a project group, Last Forever, which featured singer Sonya Cohen, daughter of John Cohen of the New Lost City Ramblers and Penny Seeger. They played the Club at LaMama, the Knitting Factory, Arts at St. Ann’s Church, and Merkin Hall. Along the way they got a contract with Nonesuch, which put out two albums, the eponymous Last Forever (1997) and Trainfare Home (2000). Last Forever put Connette into the working world of singer/songwriters. He produced Geoff Muldaur’s Bix Beiderbecke project Private Astronomy for Deutsche Grammophon and wrote arrangements for Suzzy and Maggie Roche’s Zero Church.
Connette founded his label, StorySound Records, in 2009. The first release was his Charlie Poole project with Loudon Wainwright III, High Wide & Handsome, which won a Grammy for Best Traditional Folk Album. The label became a way for Dick to support music that he loves, and he has put out over thirty albums of roots, singer/songwriter, and new classical music. The artists include Margaret Glaspy, Gabriel Kahane, Rayna Gellert, Ana Egge, Suzzy Roche and Lucy Wainwright Roche, Dan Tepfer, and yMusic.
After Sonya Cohen died in 2015, Connette started up a new project, also rooted in American folk, called Too Sad for the Public. The first album, Oysters Ice Cream Lemonade, came out in 2017, and the second, Yet and Still, will be released in July of 2023. Many of the musicians involved in Too Sad are also StorySound artists, for example, Ana Egge, Gabriel Kahane, Rayna Gellert, Suzzy Roche, and Rob Moose of yMusic. The work of both Dick’s label and his own composing and recording are twined expressions of an interconnected world of music and musicians, and a vital reflection of his impassioned interests and aspirations.