Dorothy Zerbe is a singer-songwriter who has experienced life as a mother, teacher, wife and friend. She has lived in 6 different states and has visited many other countries including England, France, Austria, Italy, Germany, Peru and Canada. She has experienced life as the youngest daughter in a large family and has owned many pets, including dogs, cats, rabbits, birds and hamsters. She currently has one cat and her song "Life of Riley" is written about him. Her four children are grown and they appear in many of her songs. She brings to her music the influences from her childhood and adolescence: Broadway music, the Chad Mitchell Trio, Peter, Paul and Mary, Joni Mitchell, Judy Collins, James Taylor, John Denver, Cat Stevens, etc. These influences had a profound effect on not only her delivery and style of music but also on her thought processes and philosophy. Dorothy also experienced a healthy dose of classical and jazz influence from her mother and father. They are/were dyed-in-the-wool musicians, her mother being a soprano soloist in a 1973 performance with the Bozeman Symphony, singing the Verdi Requiem, a recording Dorothy still has and treasures. The couple participated in many civic chorus events and found great delight in playing classical music on their home stereo. Remember the Musical Heritage Society and their famous black-and-white album covers? From that venue came Dorothy's first encounter with the Pachelbel Canon in D - one of the most beautiful things she had ever heard. Perhaps it was that simple progression of chords that inspired her to the knowledge that music doesn't have to be complicated to express something profound.
Dorothy began piano lessons at the age of 7, and continued taking them through her first year of college. Reading music has never been a problem – sight-reading allows her to be a versatile and accomplished accompanist for students. Sometime around 1989, however, she began to play the piano by ear, and that is when most of the songwriting began. The piano inspired her. She began taking guitar more seriously about the same time as well.
Dorothy writes with an intense passion to say what needs to be said, to tell a story, to express feelings that many might have but not be able to voice. Not so very different from any other singer/songwriter. But that doesn't keep her from being uniquely Dorothy. Her voice has been described as pure gold, clouds in the sky, velvet, silk, etc. She can belt one out as well.
Dorothy was a fun, adventuresome child who wasn’t afraid of the dirt. She recognizes that quality in the children she raised and in other children she encounters. At the time of this writing, Dorothy works as a church music planner, and is even now in the throes of Vacation Bible School, where she is employed as the Street Musician, a Busker if you will, singing songs in the Marketplace of 29 A.D. If you asked her what her favorite aspect of this job is, her answer would always be "It's about the people, the face-to-face contact. It's about kids coming up and wanting to play your ukulele, or sing along with you on a song."
No stranger to drama and theater, Dorothy has had some unique opportunities with children: she wrote a song cycle called “Lands Where I Live” in 1990 and recorded it in a little riverside studio with 15 children from ages 6-15 in Grand Rapids, MN when she and her family lived there. Her oldest daughter Erica, at age 6, is a soloist on that recording. The songs are definitely written from a Christian perspective, but Dorothy is very open-minded in her acceptance of other beliefs and ways of life. She believes that to be a true Christian means being tolerant, in the best sense of the word, because Christ was tolerant. (Cue for some of you reading this to get up in arms or throw a tomato). She will most likely take any thrown tomatoes and blend them into a yummy Italian sauce made with basil from her back porch, and then invite you to dine with her and talk about something other than religion or politics.
Another children’s production that she really enjoyed was an adaptation she wrote about Jack and the Beanstalk, which she and her children performed at the Shawano Pubic Library when the family lived there, in the period between 1994-1998. The story was told from the perspective of Jack’s mother, who took in people’s laundry to pay the bills, but was always coming up short one sock from each pair. It turned out the giant in the sky was snitching socks from the clothesline, making sock puppets out of them just for fun. The song “It’s Raining Socks” was written by Dorothy to underscore the part in the play when the Beanstalk gets chopped down by Jack. In those days Dorothy had a sequencer to accompany her computer, and writing songs was pure fun.
Another major production that Dorothy directed and produced with children was the comedy “The Emperor’s New Clothes” with the Box in the Wood Theater Guild in Shawano. She wrote a song called “Who Will Wear the Emperor’s New Clothes?” to go along with the script from Pioneer Press.
The Box in the Wood Theater Guild itself was named after the song “Box in the Wood” which Dorothy wrote in the summer of 1995, as the musical “Camelot” was coming to an end. She played the part of Guenevere, and had so thoroughly enjoyed the time with the cast that she wrote them a song. Right after the production’s completion, a small group of the cast formally began a theater guild and named it after the song. To this day, at the end of each summer musical, the song is performed by the cast at the final curtain call.
In essence, if you want to hear true lyrics delivered in a genuine, straight-from-the-heart style, listen to Dorothy’s songs. The melodies are hummable and the lyrics will mean something to you.