Mitch Van Dusen is a multidisciplinary musician, artist, and composer and lifelong student of the art of improvisation. His basic premise is that improvisation, the act of creating in the moment, is an untapped tool for social and personal change. His pursuit has led him to a diverse landscape of projects and explorations that explore the ways improvisation engages both with the audience and the passerby, not for the entertainment value but for the opportunity to experience the new and unexpected.
His first and primary instrument is piano. Starting as a 4-year old boy, the piano has led him through the world of jazz, studying at the New School Jazz Conservatory, and ultimately to the freeform improvisational “storytelling” that defines him today.
Besides piano, he is one of only a handful of Seprewa players around the world. Seprewa, the 10-string Ghanaian harp, is an endangered instrument and one of his favorite tools to explore and impart the improvisational experience.
His evangelism for improvisation led him to create the live workshop, Becoming The Sound, teaching musicians and nonmusicians like how to explore the opportunities found in improvisation. Using plastic bags as instruments and simple interactive exercises, he guides people to explore the improvisational instincts he believes are inherent in all people, whether or not they identify as a “creative” type.
As an artist, he has ventured into the world of sound sculpture, working with Bill and Mary Buchen, the founders of Sonic Architecture and creators of interactive musical play instruments.
As an active citizen, he has worked with organizations like Center for NuLeadership, Drug Policy Alliance, and Tactical Aesthetics, where he collaborated in the execution of The Cage Project, a highly publicized art intervention placing a man welded in a cage in the intersection of the Manhattan Correctional Center (aka “The Tombs”) forcing the police to find a way to remove him from the cage, only to incarcerate him again. He was also the co-founder of the nonprofit organization, Give Kids Your Instruments.
He has performed at venues including Carnegie Hall, ISSUE project room, Brooklyn College, The New School, churches in Germany, Czech Republic, and Poland, as well as numerous venues around New York City.
His collaborators and mentors have included Alexander Lyle, Skye Steele, Cecil Taylor, Save Samizdat, Josh Millrod, Mark Dresser, Chico Freeman, Isabel Castellvi, Cantori Domino, and ThingNY, to name a few.