There was a time, not so long ago, when you had a better chance of hitting a Las Vegas jackpot than becoming an international recording artist. After all, in Vegas, all you need is one lucky roll of the dice. Making it as a musician, however, was a lot more complicated. For that, you needed a magical mix of talent, charisma, passion, and grit blended with a healthy dose of meteoric luck, plus a team of high-powered music executives and stylists with big-money budgets.
While becoming a musical megastar is still rare, and you still need the talent, technology has made music production accessible to a world full of burgeoning artists. Best of all, you don’t even have to play an instrument to write and produce a musical hit that will broadcast to fans worldwide.
It is here in the virtual kingdom of online music production that Heritage University senior Peter Dodson Dance, aka CabinTheCollective, feeds his creative soul and is building an audience of followers.
STUDENT, TEACHER, MUSIC MAKER
Dodson Dance finds inspiration for his craft everywhere. It comes in the noise of everyday life: the sound of baristas foaming a cup of joe or a micro beat heard through the window of a passing car.
Sometimes it’s an earworm of sound that comes from nowhere and repeats over and over in his head.
“I’ll get this start of an idea. Sometimes it will start as a little melody in my head or a drumbeat that I think is interesting. I’ll grab my phone and kind of sing it into a recording that I can take back to my studio later,” he said.
The magic happens in his studio, a small room in his home. Dodson Dance’s instrument of choice is his computer keyboard. By his own admission, he has had very little musical training. The only real instrument he plays is the piano and very little at that. However, using the computer program FL Studios, he becomes a master musician, virtually proficient in every instrument one would find in a band: drums, guitars, bass, keyboards, and even the brass section. He uses the program to build songs by creating the rhythms and melodies played by each instrument. The process is kind of like painting with sound. He starts with an idea, finds a sound that he likes in one instrument and builds the musical shadows and highlights, instrument by instrument.
“My goal is to build a full, layered sound,” he said. “I start with my initial idea and build on that single thought. As it builds and becomes more interesting, I’ll bring in other sounds, play with them and keep mixing things until it feels complete.”
His songs “start with the beat,” he said. The words come later, sometimes years later. When he’s ready to start adding lyrics, Dodson Dance steps up the microphone. He’s the vocalist on almost every track.
“The music drives the lyrics,” said Dodson Dance. “It portrays a story in my head. When I go back to the music, I’m often just freestyling the words into the mic. I say what I feel or what the music conveys to me.”
Dodson Dance describes his music as “feel- good, inspirational hip-hop.” His songs have a synthesized sound with strong underlying beats and rapped vocals.
“I want people to be inspired, to want to hear more and understand where I’m coming from,” he said.
His foray into music production began seven years ago when he was a 15-year-old kid getting together with his buddies after school. Music was extremely influential to the teens. They’d dance and listen to their favorite artists, vocalizing their favorite sounds. Before long, the crew began to play with sounds more formally using their computer and music production software. They would mix musical ideas, spinning off the hip-hop music they loved listening to on the radio. Dodson Dance found he had a talent and a passion for what they were doing.
“It got to the point where I thought, ‘Man, this is good. I really want to share it,’” he said. “I had some friends who were dropping songs online on SoundCloud, so I started putting my music there too.”
SoundCloud is a music streaming service known for giving new artists a platform where their music can be heard more broadly. However, SoundCloud music is only playable by SoundCloud members. Dodson Dance wanted to play with the musical big boys. A few years ago, he expanded his reach, publishing his songs on Spotify, Amazon Music and Apple Music under the name CabinTheCollective. He’s created videos and released them on social media giants TikTok and Instagram. While he still has a way to go before he reaches influencer status, he is building a following.
“It would be crazy to say, ‘I want to be a rock star.’ I love making music and sharing it with others, but what I really want is to be a teacher,” he said.
Music is a passion and a hobby for Dodson Dance. He started at Heritage three years ago as a computer science major. However, it didn’t take long for him to realize his heart wasn’t in computers.
“I was talking to my mom, and she said I should consider becoming a teacher. She said, ‘You’re good with kids. Children work well around you, and you work well with children. They listen to you,”’ he said.
His mom knows a thing or two about teaching. She is Gloria Jones-Dance, an associate professor in Heritage’s Teacher Preparation program.
Dodson Dance took his mother’s advice and switched his major to elementary education. Last semester he completed his practicum at Whitney Elementary in the Yakima School District. He taught first grade. The experience affirmed that he was on the right path.
“The experience taught me that young minds need lots of repetition, and kids are ready to learn at all ages. It was fun but also taught me to be serious to ensure students were doing their work,” he said.
BALANCING TWO WORLDS
While hip hop as a genre has a reputation for being less than child- friendly, Dodson Dance believes that his avocation and future vocation need not be mutually exclusive.
“I spent a lot of time thinking about this,” he said. “I am an adult, and I make my music for other adults, but I think about that eight-year- old out there who could find my songs on the internet or who may be listening to my music with his parents or older brother or sister. I don’t want to expose them to messages they might not be ready for. That’s one of the reasons that I keep my messages positive and inspirational.”
He also thinks about how music can be integrated into this teaching.
“Music helps me inspire creativity in students and create musical opportunities,” he said. “I can see possibly turning lessons into song, delivering information rhythmically or melodically, or even engaging with the kids through music.”
With two more semesters left to complete his degree, Dodson Dance is concentrating on making the most out of what is left of his college career, and building his next great beat to add to his ever-growing collection of streaming songs.
You can hear Peter’s music through streaming platforms Apple Music, Spotify and Amazon Music. Or follow him on TikTok or Instagram. In all platforms, search for CabinTheCollective.