We had the good fortune of connecting with Rachel de Koekkoek and Eric Neilson and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Rachel and Eric, how do you think about risk?
Every decision we make in our lives involves a degree of risk. What is important to us when pursuing a goal is not how great the risk, but how meaningful the challenge. Our project, DharmaDen Sessions, is still in its infancy. We are learning as we go. We’ve definitely encountered our fair share of doubt about whether or not the time and money spent on this project will pay off. It’s a lot of work without immediate reward. But that’s how all big pursuits are. This is a project driven by our love for art and community. If we keep the right intentions as we progress, the risks will only make us stronger.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
We are trying to encompass the heart of San Diego and it’s creative and cultural diversity. It’s a lofty goal, but it keeps us moving forward. For the time being, we are making use of the virtual format via our three video series: #TunedUp, #SpeakUp, and #ThatTimeIBombed. Our first original series, Tuned Up, is the musical one. Inspired by NPR’s Tiny Desk videos, we wanted to add a local spin with this series and promote local bands and songwriters. Speak Up is our spoken word series, which we open to poets and comedians. As of January 2021, we started a new series with local comedian, Zoltan Kaszas, where he invites a guest over to the DharmaDen to talk about their worst “bombs” on stage. For now we are focusing on those virtual elements while we build our audience. As we get closer to the end of this pandemic, we are planning to showcase the diverse aesthetic in the various districts of SD. To do this, we are working towards building our relationship with other organizations in the community. We know this process takes time, so we are being patient. We look forward to revealing our other pursuits in the near future!

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Well, prior to COVID, we would be quick to recommend Lestat’s West and Cafe 1134. Both were ideal spots in the city to be welcomed into the music community. Being two musicians, we would recommend areas of the city that normally have live music and events, like North Park, Normal Heights, Gaslamp, Little Italy, etc. Since the pandemic, anywhere outside has been a hot spot to visit and hangout. Kate O. Sessions Park, Balboa Park, and Mission Trails are easy recommendations. The Cabrillo National Monument has an amazing view of the city and the harbor. Even some of the canyons like Switzer Canyon in South Park is a nice hike! In terms of food, there are so many gems, we don’t even know a fraction of them! The first two restaurants that come to mind though are Ironside and Plumeria. Like donuts? Nomad and Donut Bar. As you explore San Diego, we also encourage everyone to see as many murals as possible. There is an abundance of art throughout the city! The list of things to do is never-ending, and we are on a journey to showcase all of those urban gems.

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
We want to shoutout the San Diego music community for being the inspiration behind this project. Without you guys, we wouldn’t have voices and talent to share via this platform. More specifically, we want to shoutout Mr. J-Reez, Kevin Waters, Ami Depeza, Tony Palkovic, Andrew Barrack, and all the other wonderful people who have shown their support and kindness since the conception of our project. You all have given us insight on how to build a community. We look forward to cultivating many more relationships throughout the city. Also, shoutout to all of those who are letting their creativity shine during this pandemic, finding innovative ways to keep on keeping on. We want to create more symbiotic relationships in this beautiful place. Our door is always open, and we encourage everyone to stop and say, “Hi!”

Website: www.dharmadensessions.com

Instagram: @dharmadensessions

Facebook: www.facebook.com/dharmadensessions

Youtube: www.youtube.com/dharmadensessions

Other: Please feel free to email us at dharmadensessions@gmail.com to collaborate, to inquire about booking a session, and to learn more about what we are working towards!

Nominate Someone: ShoutoutSocal is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.