Piano tech returns to music performance

The Other Other Operation’s logo is a combination of the album art from one of the albums they cover and an image from Monty Python, which provided the inspiration for their name.


On Friday, Sep. 7 at 6 p.m., the faculty and staff recital titled “The Other Other Operation” will be held in Davis Hall. UNI piano maintenance technician and coordinator David Dunn will lead Chris Merz, Bob Dunn, Josh Hakanson, Matt Andreini and Ryan Frost during the event.

Each selection will cover a progressive rock song, including classics from the bands King Crimson, Emerson, Lake and Palmer as well as more recent compositions by artists like the California Guitar Trio.

“Anything that kind of had a little bit more complexity to it than your typical pop music could be considered progressive rock by some people,” David Dunn said. “And then there are groups that have gone on since the 1980s in the spirit of that. I would say anything that’s not just simple pop music could find a niche in there. To me, it’s just good music.”

One of the other performers in the Other Other Operation is adjunct instructor of guitar Bob Dunn, who is also David’s cousin. Both of them grew up listening to progressive rock.

“This recital is completely dedicated to progressive rock things,” Bob Dunn said. “It fits so well with the instrument that [David’s] playing, the Chapman Stick. To me it’s just a mind-boggling instrument. I can’t imagine how he’s learned to play it, how anybody plays it. But it works really well, and it works extremely well for this style.”

David described the Chapman Stick as an electric instrument that combines piano and guitar technique. Because it’s electric, it’s able to produce effects like the guitar or electric guitar. The instrument is also polyphonic, meaning that several notes can be played at once.

“There’s a lot of things that are in odd meter—that accounts for some of the difficulty and a lot of the challenge of the music,” Bob Dunn said. “There’ll probably be a lot of people who come there that, just because of how old this music is, they may not have ever heard of the group King Crimson or Emerson, Lake and Palmer. So when they hear some of these works, I hope that peaks their interest and maybe they go back and listen to that stuff.”

The name “The Other Other Operation” is a reference to the British skit comedy television show “Monty Python,” which was on-air during the height of progressive rock’s popularity. In the sketch “The Piranha Brothers,” a group of criminals try and fail several operations. The one that’s finally successful for them is “the other other operation.”

“For me, it kind of related to me trying to get back into music performance,” said David Dunn. “I’ve tried a number of things, none of which felt really right to me. So, I’m hoping that this is going to be the thing that keeps me performing, and I’m hoping it also generates an interest for other people who are as into this music as I am. I’m looking to bring other people into this too.”

David Dunn has been a piano technician at UNI since 2010. Before that, he taught string bass at various colleges for 16 years. Since becoming a piano technician, he’s gradually stopped performing music, largely due to a lack of time.

“It became very clear to me over the last few years that not playing music was creating this big void in my life, and I didn’t really realize that until I got there,” David Dunn said. “I realized I really do miss this. So I don’t know exactly why I enjoy it, but it’s a big part to my life, and it just doesn’t feel right to not be part of it in some way.”

A turning point for David was when he bought his first Chapman Stick.

“It’s an instrument that’s a real challenge to play,” David Dunn said. “I’ve owned it for the last eight years, and I’ve gotten tired of kind of feeling like I was just an owner of this instrument, and I’d like to become an actual player of this instrument. And the best way to do that is to challenge yourself. So I decided to organize this project to play music that I want to play and also give myself a reason to improve my skills on this instrument.”

The Other Other Operation has been rehearsing for this recital since the summer.

“The guys that are playing with me have put in enormous amounts of time because this isn’t your typical ‘let’s read from a book’ kind of music,” David Dunn said. “They’ve had to listen to recordings. They’ve had to learn things by ear, and everybody has really invested a lot of time into it. So now my hope is that we’ve spent a lot of time with the hard work that we can just have fun, that we can just enjoy what we’re doing, and hopefully that will reflect to the audience too.”