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Dana Baitz is a Toronto-based popular musician and musicologist. Her musicological research focuses on her doctoral studies at York University, on the music of Prince. Dana's recording and performing career began in the early 1990s. She has performed in major cities throughout North America, and has appeared on 13 commercial album releases. Her music appears in 4 films and videos. Dana is classically-trained, with an ARCT degree in piano performance, a BA in classical composition, and doctoral music research . In 2001, she began supplementing her piano performances with her use of bass guitar.
Dana has been active in many branches of LGBT communities. As she has said – she’s "been in every letter!" Most of Dana’s music has focused on transgendered and transsexual experiences, making her one of North America’s foremost producers of "trans" popular music.
Early Work: Rock and RollEdit
Dana’s first album, Not So Blue (1995), was released under her given name, before Dana transitioned. This album featured Ani DiFranco’s drummer Andy Stochansky, and other extremely talented musicians. The album was eclectic and artistic, receiving wider critial acclaim than popular support.
After her debut album, Dana began transitioning and adopted a stronger feminist orientation. This is reflected in her use of the piano as a lead instrument. Musicologists have described the piano as being gendered female – as opposed to the male gendering of guitars. Accordingly, Dana brought the piano out of its background, nurturing and textural role (ex - Tori Amos), and used it as a powerful lead instrument. Her rock piano style was act of female empowerment. Dana’s 1998 Flower CD reflects this approach. Her recordings were broadcast multiple times on CBC's Zed Television program. These songs were also among the first in which Dana began to describe trans experiences. Dana’s band at the time (drums, piano/vocals, and sometimes bass) helped fuel the aggressive and percussive rock piano style Dana was becoming known for. Her distinctive playing was recognized by many musicians who requested she play on their albums. She damaged many pianos this way!
Middle Years: TransitionEdit
Following the release of Flower, Dana’s music became more experimental and adventurous, as heard in "Estrofemme" (1999) – an electronic collage of powerful female film characters. That same year, Dana released her Untitled EP; the compilation featured previously unreleased demos, as well as one song ("Little Black Echo") from her debut album. At this time, Dana started to make music with Ember Swift. They recorded together on a number of albums and shared a stage many times.
Dana moved to Liverpool England for one year, to record new material and begin grad school. Upon her return to Toronto, Dana contributed piano tracks and wrote songs on albums by Dan Bryk, Slav Simanic, and Dyniss. With a growing number of album credits and performing experience, Dana received a "TransPlanet" award for "Eminent Artist" from SOY Toronto. Her performances were broadcast multiple times on digital television channels. Dana also began doctoral studies on Prince’s music, at York University.
Recent Activities: Soul Grooves and BeyondEdit
Around 2003, Dana began to move away from aggressive rock, and found more strength in the grounded and steady feel of soul music. Dana began performing on bass guitar, and her music incorporated drum loops, and steady laid-back grooves. Dana’s intentions became less focused on political struggles, and were more personal – pursuing a strong and assured sense of self. Although she continued to appear on rock albums such as Skarlet O’Hara’s Picket White Fences, her own music became more soulful and grounded.
Also at this time, Dana contributed musical scores to various independent movies, including Alec Butler’s second installment of The Misadventures of Pussy Boy, and later – Girl on Girl (a recipient of multiple awards) by Vancouver’s "Miss Nomer" collective. Dana’s own independent short video, Flat Simple Girls, appeared at queer film festivals including Toronto’s Inside/Out. This movie portrayed Dana’s musical activities in comparison to the artistic activities of Charlotte von Mahlsdorf.
Since 2004, Dana’s music has continued to evolve, no longer fitting neatly into soul or rock genres. Her rewrite of The Kinks’ 1970 hit "Lola" retells the story of a man attracted to a trans woman in a bar, from the woman’s perspective. Stylistically the song returns to rock, yet without the self-conscious aggression and politicking of her earlier music. In "A Simple Life," Dana shares wisdom she gained from living in a proscribed social position. The message here is to appreciate change, and to simply be yourself.
2005 brought increasingly widespread recognition of Dana's musical contributions. The National Library and Archives of Canada incorporated Dana's recordings into their holdings, and her music was prominently featured in a film documentary on San Francisco's Transcendence Gospel Choir, entitled The Believers. Dana's most recent performances have taken place outside of Toronto, in sites including New York City, Baltimore, Chicago, Michigan, and Philadelphia. In May of 2006, Dana married a Toronto-based poet and English scholar.
Dana's work currently focuses on musicology, rather than the public production of music. Performances are now rarely given.
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