And the beat goes on
You can’t keep a good skier home
Snowboarding: New life-long adventure
Story from the past
Meet David Christian, Dominion’s godfather of music
he circle of musicians tapping their cowboy boots filled the café where waitresses sang as they cleared tables, and newcomers were offered a handshake and a guitar.
On a Tuesday evening in January, the men and women in the ever-widening circle of mismatched chairs played mostly acoustic guitars, though the fiddler, “harp” and mandolin players clinched the group’s country credentials.
David Christian, CEO of the Dominion Generation Group, strummed along with their rendition of “Living on Tulsa Time.” The music barely fades before Joe, the unofficial music director, asks who has a song to sing.
While Joe encourages everyone to contribute their talents—whatever they may be or yet to become—there are no stars here. People are drawn to the weekly jams for the pure joy of making music together. Dave is a regular now, hooked on the elixir of connecting with others through music.
“I don’t consider myself a musician,” says Dave. “But who doesn’t love music? There is something communal about getting into resonant frequency in rhythm with other people. It has a primal effect that is just good.”
In conversation, Dave slides seamlessly from philosopher to engineer to scientist to psychologist, revealing his drive to hone his skills in whatever he undertakes—what his nuclear colleagues know as “continuous improvement.”
“Every now and then, I hear something I wish I could play, and I focus on learning it,” he says. “Like the intro to Heart’s ‘Crazy on You’ or Pachabel’s ‘Canon in D.’ My other motivation is to try to grow the left and right brain together.”
Besides being known as Dominion’s godfather of music—the man responsible for bringing internationally renowned Australian guitarist Tommy Emmanuel to company audiences—Dave says his first loves are flying, snowboarding and, in his youth, motorcycle racing.
He’s not sure what propels him toward high-speed sports and conquering complicated new skills, but speculates his drive might be motivated by the sudden death of his father—a doctor in Appomattox, Va., who was shot by a deranged man while making a house call when Dave was just a baby.
“If you believe in Jungian archetypes, having lost a father at a young age, for some reason, tends to make people become achievement oriented,” Dave said. “We end up being driven throughout life, searching for the father we never had.”
But he is quick to shake off that notion, acknowledging a strong bond with his stepfather—a high school math teacher who married his mother when Dave was 4 and moved his family to Northern Virginia. His was a gentle, philosophic influence.
“My dad always said, ‘Don’t ever become part of anything for what you’ll get out of it, join for what you put into it.’ That’s the way I go about things. The reward comes from giving back.”
Dave’s rewards are reaped in a kaleidoscope of service—as chairman of CultureWorks, a Richmond organization that promotes the arts; sitting on the board of the Virginia War Memorial Education Foundation, or taking veterans on nostalgic flights in his restored 1941 Stearman Military Trainer.
Although his childhood dream was to become an astronaut, Dave settled on engineering, following the advice of his guidance counselor without really knowing what it meant. Then, while a rising junior at Virginia Tech, he enrolled in a course that changed his life.
“We used a textbook I still have called Society, Technology and Man to study the various impacts of certain technologies on the planet,” Dave says.
“That’s where I first became familiar with what was then called the greenhouse effect and is now called climate change. I realized society is going to need nuclear power and decided to steer my studies toward nuclear engineering. So with all the consciousness available to a 19-year-old, I thought, I want to run a nuclear power plant someday.”
Dave was hired by “VEPCO” in 1976 as an assistant engineer at Surry Power Station and reached his goal 22 years later when he became site vice president of Surry. He views his present position as another vehicle for learning about others; he makes a point to talk with employees wherever he goes.
But for Dave, getting to know people is not just good management practice, it’s a way of life.
“Once I was in Boulder, Colo., visiting my son, and I went down to this little coffee shop to read my stack of newspapers, and a lady sits down next to me. So I strike up a conversation with her, like I always do.
“Turns out, she was an Olympic freestyle skier. So I said, tell me about that, and we got on this discussion about the importance of vision and mental preparation. She said, basically, the run is over before she leaves the starting gate because she’s already done it all in her head. It was fascinating. When I’m talking to employees, I’ll sometimes draw on that story to drive home the importance of mental preparation.”
The chance encounter later led him to a book by Terry Orlick, a former Olympic ski coach, called In Pursuit of Excellence, How to Win in Sport and Life through Mental Training. He was impressed, so he shared it with his wife, Laura, who competes in American Kennel Club agility trials. She liked it, too.
“So I called him and introduced myself and said, this might sound a little strange, but I’d like to give you as a gift to my wife for her birthday. Would you be willing to come watch her train and give her some tips?
“He agreed, so we had this Olympic coach come spend the night with us. That was a real treat to us both—now they’ve formed an ongoing relationship that has really helped her technique.”
Dave leans forward to drive home the point of his story.
“You never really know when you meet someone if you’ll find a common interest, or interests, you can share with others.
“You can be a connecter and, before you know it, you can change the world.”
Editor’s Note: Tommy Emmanuel fans look forward to his return engagement in Richmond at CenterStage, June 21. Watch for more details.