More than the prospect of Donuts For Dinner (DFD) propelled four Gaithersburg musicians to combine their talents in a folk rock cover band that bears an unusual name. Although their ages, occupations and stages of life vary, their common passion and compatible sensibilities link them in this musical endeavor.
The quartet—consisting of sisters Melissa Pritchard and Shannon Frank, as well as Joe Dito and Mark Bleich–have been playing together and performing locally for about 18 months. They met as members of the Kentlands Acoustic Jam.
“We can credit that group for introducing us–well, apart from Melissa and me–and allowing us to explore our musical sensibilities,” said Frank, who named the band. The idea came to her while partaking of the sweet treats during an evening practice session. “That should be our name,” she exclaimed. “Something silly and fun, and thoroughly enjoyable.”
The group’s mix is “one of the really cool things about DFD,” Bleich said. “We have a retiree, a middle-ager with kids ranging from middle school to college, a younger parent with two young kids (and a third on the way), and a newly-engaged-to-be married member.”
Dito, 63, a Lakelands resident who retired last year after a 47-year career in retail corporate management, sings and plays lead guitar. Bleich, 49, DFD’s drummer, is an investigator for the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. Pritchard, 34, sings and plays bass guitar, and teaches “awesome” fifth-graders at Jones Lane Elementary School. And Frank, 29, a Kentlands resident who sings and plays ukulele and guitar, is a senior marketing coordinator for the Americas at Marriott International.
Members’ musical taste is broad, as are their choices of repertoire. The diversity of age, Bleich said, “brings a wide range of knowledge and experience in musical styles, so I get to play genres I’ve never really played before and songs from bands I’ve never heard of before.” Dito said the Beatles have been his “biggest influence over the years,” but he also loves “country, oldies, classic rock, metal, New Wave and today’s indie rock.” Bleich, who also plays ukulele, noted that whereas “drumming-wise,” he usually plays rock, classic rock and popular music, he loves the sound of big band and swing, and especially enjoys the few DFD songs with “a swing feel to them.”
Pritchard and Frank come from a musical family; both their brothers are virtuoso pianists, their late father played saxophone and keyboard, and their mother sings. “We grew up listening to Simon and Garfunkel and the Beatles on our many family road trips,” said Pritchard. “I have a deep appreciation for music from that era.” In addition, she said, “I love playing and listening to country music, music from the ‘60s, folk, and anything that just has a great sound and makes you feel something. Really, anything from the Beatles to Kacey Musgraves does it for me.”
Frank concurred. “My dad immersed us all in all types of music, from Bach to the Beatles. As for my own sensibilities, I do love the Beatles, Radiohead, and so much in between. A big fan of Kacey Musgraves, Johnny Cash and a lesser-known artist named Ben Rector. I’ll play anything we can pull off, from Bob Dylan to Maroon 5. If it’s fun to play, I’m game.”
Frank said DFD plays “throughout Gaithersburg–and sometimes beyond the city limits. One of our favorite reoccurring gigs is at Finewine.com in the Washingtonian Center. They are so generous with their space and always welcome our group wholeheartedly.” Her fiancé proposed at DFD’s last gig there, she said, “so it holds a uniquely special place in my heart, music aside.” They have also performed at Kentlands events, Linganore Wine Cellars, Union Jack’s, Downtown Crown Wine and Beer, Beers and Cheers Too, “and of course, Peppers–the place where we first began. We owe those folks so much for taking a chance on our fledgling group and supporting us as we got our bearings.”
All the group members seem content to remain just the way they are. “We have a great rapport with each other, a wonderful chemistry where we bounce songs off each other, try them out, and if we love them, we add to our list of songs,” Dito said. “We all love playing for intimate crowds, and truly enjoy performing for people and each other. Donuts For Dinner is my dream come true.”
“The musical and personal chemistry really seem to work. We’re in it for the fun, the music, and the company,” Bleich agreed. “I like where we are now. We’re laid back, our practice schedule is very flexible, we generally play a couple of local, small-venue gigs a month.” Bleich added that he and Dito “half-jokingly refer to our place in the band as essentially backing up Melissa and Shannon, as they’re the very talented stars of the band–their harmonies are really beautiful! If anyone were to be ‘discovered’ and move on to bigger things, it would be them.”
Yet both sisters seem content to maintain the status quo. “I think we all would agree that maintaining a similar sound and feel to what we have established would be the best path,” Frank said. “The scale of our gigs is just perfect to accommodate our lives outside the group. We are able to balance our various commitments between work, family, and whatever interests outside of music we all have.”
And Pritchard echoed Dito, observing that DFD is “a dream come true at this stage of my life.” She said the band came into her life “right when I needed it most,” soon after her father’s death. “I feel my dad’s presence and picture his sweet smile every time I am playing music. He always told me that if you have a true love for music, it’s a gift. He was right, and I am so lucky for the joy that music has brought into my life.”