How Music Sets the Stage in Storytelling


This Week’s Episode:

I’m sitting with my husband at a huge speaking event. He’s “The Closer”, and it’s already been a long day with lots of speakers on the stage. As we’re waiting for his turn to come, I turn to look at him and see he’s starting to fall asleep!

Uh oh! I grab him and take him outside of the theater because we’ve got to get his energy back up somehow. I say to him, “How about you put in your earbuds, play your power song, and take a brisk walk around the block?”

So off he goes, and I anxiously wait for him in the lobby. The minutes pass like hours. But when he walks back in, it’s like he’s a different person! 

Just that one song recharged him and got him amped up to deliver his speech. He jumped up on that stage and owned it!

My belief is that he lit that stage on fire (figuratively speaking, of course) because he simply changed the story of what was going on with him - through music. Music has such a powerful effect on our bodies. And few people know that better than my guest today.

David Dabbon is a songwriter, arranger, and composer who’s worked on Broadway and received an Emmy nomination for his music composition in “Eat Shit, Bob!” (which you’ve probably heard on John Oliver’s HBO late-night show). Story through music is a huge part of his business and his life.

Why is story so much more than just the written word? How can musical choices change not just the feel but also the perspective of a scene? What are the layers that give music the power to energize and affect people so deeply? In this episode, David and I discuss the nuances of storytelling through musical choices, particularly its power to change (or manipulate) the feelings and perspectives of an audience.

What you will learn in this episode:

  • Why form is a big part of storytelling in all of its guises
  • How music can support your emotional connection to stories
  • Why we create different characters in storytelling

Who is David?

Based in New York, David Dabbon is an Emmy-nominated composer and arranger whose work has been featured on television and on the stage. He earned a bachelor of music degree from The Hartt School and his master of music degree in choral conducting from Carnegie Mellon University. He’s also a Usual Suspect at New York Theater Workshop and a member of the Television Academy, ASCAP, and The Society of Composers and Lyricists.

David earned his Emmy award nomination for composing music in the song “Eat Shit, Bob!” for HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. He worked as the dance arranger for the Tony-nominated Broadway musical adaptation of Beetlejuice and the musical comedy Disaster! He also provided additional orchestrations for the Grammy-nominated Sondheim on Sondheim and orchestrations and arrangements for the HBO documentary Six by Sondheim. Other composer works include the interactive game show musical Game On, the Golden Lotus workshop, the ballet commission Surface, the production Our New Town, films Dori the Donor and All God’s Creatures, and The Mysteries plays.

In his ongoing collaboration with six-time Tony Award winner Audra McDonald, David regularly provides orchestrations for albums and concerts. You can hear his work on McDonald’s New York Philharmonic: Sing Happy and Go Back Home. Also, at the 42nd Kennedy Center Honors, his orchestration of “Somewhere/Some Other Time” was performed. Currently, David is dance arranging and writing additional music for Bob Fosse’s Dancin’ production and creating additional arrangements for the Funny Girl revival.

Ready to be unforgettable? Good.


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