Any musician can rattle off a formidable list of influences, but bassist Christian Dillingham's love of music came from a very intimate source: his parents, who spun jazz records throughout his childhood, introducing him to the sound of the acoustic bass. His mother—an avid piano player—loved to play Chopin and Debussy, and this blend of jazz and classical would end up inspiring and directing Dillingham's entire career.
Dillingham, a native of Brookfield, Ohio, played in rock and jazz bands throughout high school, sat in weekly at the jam session at local Cedar's Café, and lucked out with a high school teacher that did not mind loaning him records. Dillingham became serious about the pursuit of music as a career while at Youngstown State University as an undergraduate, studying under the instruction of Tony Leonardi. After graduating with a Bachelor’s of Music degree in Music Performance with an Emphasis on Jazz, Dillingham’s education continued at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, where he worked with Jeffrey Turner, principal bass of the Pittsburgh Symphony, and subsequently received a Master’s of Music degree in Music Performance. He also attended the National Repertory Orchestra Festival in Breckenridge, Colorado and the School for Improvisational Music in New York.
Upon graduation in 2006, Dillingham was invited to play in the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, and moved to the city to perform with them for the next two seasons. At the same time, he continued to pursue jazz, performing at the weekly jam session at Fred Anderson’s Velvet Lounge. Since then, he has racked up a number of impressive appearances in Chicago’s vibrant classical scene, playing with the Grant Park Symphony, Fulcrum Point, and the Chicago Opera Theatre.
Today, Dillingham is known around the city for his versatility, flexibility, and foundational bass playing. He draws inspiration from classical icons like Bach and Brahms to jazz greats like Charlie Parker, Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane, and Miles Davis, and chalks up his other influences to things both tangible and intangible: nature, water, God. Dillingham has played with many notable musicians and groups, including Melvin Butler, Dee Alexander, Victor Goines, Bobby Broom, Sean Jones, Kimberly Gordon, Bobby Irving, Take 6, Lupe Fiasco, Mike Reed, Ernest Dawkins, and George Fludas. He has appeared on albums by Quentin Coaxum (Current), Fumée Gypsy Project (Reverie), Hard Art Groop (The Art of Affliction and the Science of Feeling Groovy), Jim Gailloreto Jazz String Quintet (forthcoming), and Greg Ward (also forthcoming). Dillingham is also a member of the Chicago Sinfonietta and the Chicago Philharmonic, and appears on albums from the Chicago Sinfonietta (Dances and Delights) and Camerata Chicago (Haydn and Mysliveček Cello Concertos). He’s no stranger to country and bluegrass, either, appearing on Whiskey Halo by singer Jodee Lewis (which won the Independent Music Award for Best Album: Country).
He currently performs regularly with a number of diverse projects, including the Jim Gailloreto Jazz String Quintet, Fumée Gypsy Project, Jodee Lewis, Tim Fitzgerald Sextet, Clif Wallace Quintet, Charles Heath Quartet, and John Elmquist's Hard Art Groop.