Dixie Taylor has had a variety of musical experiences in her life. From roots in classical piano and the church choir to her current gig at Teddy's Juke Joint in Zachary, she has lived a life filled with music and performance.
"I started singing solos in church when I was 5 years old," Taylor said. "I also have a degree in theater from Southeastern in Hammond."
Trained in classical piano, Taylor, known by her stage name, Dixie Rose, had a strong desire to move away from the formal and let her emotions guide her music.
Taylor said she was frustrated by the fact that her training was classical, but she wanted to incorporate improvisation into her music.
"I wanted to be free to play what I heard and what I felt as opposed to being locked into the notes on a piece of paper. Because of the classical training in piano, I was stuck," she said.
It was those classical notes on paper that put Taylor on a path to what has been an outstanding and truly fulfilling career.
"Nobody told me that the 145 chord progression at the end of every scale I was running on the classical piano was also the basic chords for blues," Taylor said. "So when I picked up a guitar, I also picked up a book called 'Country & Blues Guitar for the Musically Hopeless' by Carol McComb."
Three months later, she had learned how to play the guitar and was ready to take to the stage. Playing at Phil Brady's, Tabby's Blues Box and Heritage Hall and hosting open mic nights around the city gave Taylor a new perspective on one important responsibility of musicians.
"It is terribly, terribly important for us to raise the next generation of musicians," Taylor stressed. "Talent does not pick an age to blossom. Sometimes talent blooms really, really young and there's not a lot of places for a kid to play out."
Taylor wants the younger generation to be adequately prepared to deal with all the aspects of being a musician and a businessperson.
"Learning how to play with other people and knowing your stage craft are extremely important," Taylor said. "Professionalism and understanding what's going to be expected of you if you are playing a festival or some other venue - these are all things you have to learn if you are going to take that next step."
Another responsibility Taylor is adamant about stems from being a singer. Though she makes it look easy, she openly admits that it is the band behind her that truly makes the music.
"As a singer, you need to understand what the band needs," Taylor said. "You also need a reverence and an appreciation for the years they put in to learning their instrument, so that they make you sound good as a singer. If you do not honor and respect that, I don't know that you could recover from that."
That appreciation for the bands with which she has played goes deep. Taylor recalled advice given to her by another friend in the business that has stuck with her throughout the years.
"Dusty Lightfoot said there are only two mistakes you can never recover from," Taylor said. "One is to confuse an amateur with a professional, because they will always let you down. The second is to confuse a professional with an amateur, because they'll never forgive you for doing that. You have to truly appreciate the musicians you play with."
For the last eight years, Taylor has found a home among a family of other musicians from all around the world at Teddy's Juke Joint in Zachary. Taylor admits the atmosphere at Teddy's has been one of the many positive things in her life.
"At Teddy's it is a wonderful little place to be a part of," Taylor said. "By virtue of Teddy and Nancy being so wonderful and welcoming to me, I feel at home and comfortable whether I'm with others or all by myself. They want to hear whatever I want to play."
Taylor said that over her time at Teddy's, many musicians have come around, stayed for a while and then moved on, but owners Teddy and Nancy Johnson have created a place for the next generation to learn and experienced musicians to heal.
"On Wednesday nights, Teddy's is a place where players of any level can come, from raw beginners to more polished performers to those who have been professional players," Taylor said. "But underneath it all, there is a healing going on because the music business is very harsh. It takes that tender little artist soul and it puts it in a meat grinder and spits it out and says take this thing that you do for love and now make money from it. Many of the musicians have been wounded by the business, and Teddy's is a place for them to come back to their first love, and when you get right down to it, it's all about the love of music."
Dixie Rose performs every Wednesday night at Teddy's Juke Joint in Zachary. For more information on Dixie Rose or Teddy's Juke Joint, visit www.teddysjukejoint.com.