Guitar and the Gospel: Daniel Dossmann Shared Christ’s Love Through Music
The strings of the guitar have stilled, vibrating no more. The hands that had held it were those of Daniel Dossmann, who died on August 8 in Fairfield Glade, Tennessee. He was 77.
Françoise and Daniel Dossmann
Born in Nazi-occupied France in 1941, Dossmann spent his childhood in the Paris arrondissement (district) No. 3. During the mid-1960s as a young conscript in France’s army, he was among the troops sent to quell armed revolts by the Front de Libération nationale (National Liberation Front or FLN) in Algeria.
He would say later that he made a poor soldier. However, his deployment to the North Africa desert lent opportunity to consider life’s bigger questions. Beneath a starry sky, he asked himself why he was made and what his purpose on the Earth was. It was for him, the beginning of a search for God.
“I met Daniel when I was 16 years old in a guitar class in a music school in Paris,” Dossmann’s widow, Françoise said. They were married on April 6, 1968 and began life as a couple in arrondissement No. 10. In 1969, Dossmann and several other men formed Les Ménestriers (The Minstrels), a pioneering French medieval folk band. He played two stringed instruments, the pandura and the cittern, which has a shallow, pear-shaped body and an asymmetrical neck. Les Ménestriers recorded three albums during Dossmann’s tenure with them.
Les Ménestriers with Daniel Dossmann (right)
The Dossmanns’ search for God led them to yoga and a short visit in 1972 to India with Oliver to study Eastern mysticism. “When I first met him, when we dated, when we got married and two years later when [our son] Oliver was born, Daniel smiled very little,” Françoise said. “There was a very deep sadness in him and searching for God was the main goal of our lives. Everything changed when we became Christians at the end of 1973, five years after we were married.”
All the works of Johann Sebastian Bach —in particular the St Matthew Passion (video or audio) — moved Daniel, whose conversion to Christianity followed his acceptance of the Bible’s veracity. “There was no influence from anybody,” Françoise said. “It was only God who revealed himself to us through the reading of the Bible, discovering the gospel message and what Jesus Christ had done for us.” A few years later, Daniel wrote a book, Le Yoga face à la Bible, (Yoga Face to Face with the Bible) to document their pilgrimage to God’s grace and forgiveness.
The Dossmann family in France in 1983. They moved to Ecuador the following year.
In the mid-1970s, the Dossmanns studied at a Bible institute in Geneva, Switzerland. Later living at Amboise, France, they heard of an opportunity in Ecuador at an international Christian media outlet, Radio HCJB (begun as a mission society and a radio station, but now separate entities, HCJB and Reach Beyond.) Upon their acceptance as missionaries, they raised the necessary financial support and in 1983, began Spanish language studies in Edinburg, Texas.
The following year, they arrived in Quito, Ecuador. The mission’s first French language programs had begun during World War II. Over the next four decades, HCJB had received French-language programs recorded abroad. Daniel and Françoise began Quito-based program production upon their arrival in Ecuador. They also responded to listeners who wrote them from the French-speaking world.
Daniel Dossmann at a studio console at HCJB The Voice of the Andes in Ecuador.
In Quito, the Dossmanns’ son, Oliver, attended an international school, the Alliance Academy International. He recalls a visit to their home by a high school friend. Upon arriving, they noticed Daniel staring at an audio speaker as he listened to the music.
Oliver recalled, “My friend asked ‘What is your dad doing?’ I said ‘He is listening to music.’ My friend replied ‘What do you mean?’ I said ‘That’s it; he’s just listening to music!’ My friend replied ‘And that’s it?’ I just said ‘yeah, that’s my dad…’” To Daniel the words ‘background’ never fit into the same sentence with ‘music’, Oliver said.
Over a 17-year period in Ecuador, Daniel and Françoise produced a variety of programs, both together and separately. In 2000, the Dossmanns transitioned to the West African country of Côte d’Ivoire(Ivory Coast). Their programs aired on an Abidjan station, Fréquence Vie,and were sent out to other stations as well.
At the end of 2004, a civil war erupted in Côte d’Ivoire and the Dossmanns were evacuated with other expatriates. By that time, Oliver had established his home and business in Jackson, Tennessee in the United States and his parents spent a year there. They moved to Normandy, France in 2007, and continued to produce radio programs. These programs are still being broadcast by three Christian radio stations in France and a few in French-speaking African countries, including Côte d’Ivoire, where unrest again seized the country in 2011. Their programs are also on this website: www.edenridge.org/dossmann.
They later became residents of the United States. Physical examinations were required and Daniel’s lung x-ray showed that his thymus was too large and he was told that it had to be removed. As a consequence, he was diagnosed in 2016 with pure red cell aplasia, a rare blood disease. In spite of weakness brought on by his medications, he worked on new short oral and written messages, Un fil d’or dans la Bible (A golden thread throughout the Bible). He also continued to remaster all the programs he had recorded in Côte d’Ivoire and France, among them, A travers les Psaumes (Through the Psalms).
Oliver meanwhile, along with two college friends, came up with an idea to build a retreat center for missionaries and pastors who needed to rest and recuperate their strength. Daniel’s music became a key funding component for the project. “During one of a thousand long conversations with my dad over the years,” he said, “we came up with an idea: we would record CDs, sell them, and save the proceeds until we had enough money to buy land. And that’s exactly what we did. Two years, 12,000 CDs, and $150,000 later, we had enough money to buy land.” Formed by Oliver and his friends, Mission to Missionaries (MTM) constructed a picturesque retreat center called EdenRidge near Fairfield Glade in east Tennessee.
Guitar Legacy recording project with Bob Hartman (left) of Petra
On most of the 10 Dossmanns’ music albums, Françoise played the recorder (a “sweet flute”) on many of Daniel’s compositions. Then on the album, Guitar Legacy, the songs were composed and performed by Daniel and Bob Hartman, the founder of the contemporary Christian rock band, Petra. Hartman and his wife attend church with Oliver’s family and so the Dossmanns and the Hartmans became friends.
In late 2017, Daniel was diagnosed with a cancerous melanoma in the upper back. Even as his health declined over the next 10 months, his resolve remained strong. “One of his last concerns he shared with us,” Françoise said, “was about his radio programs and Oliver told Daniel that he would take care of it with joy and gratitude.”
An August 25 a memorial service for Daniel was held in Fairfield Glade. Survivors include his wife of 50 years, Françoise, their son, Oliver and his wife Rachel, and four grandchildren, Alexander, Zachary, Liana and Kaylee.
Daniel’s guitar on display in the Welcome Center at EdenRidge.
Ralph and Kathy Kurtenbach are Reach Beyond missionaries. They served with Daniel & Françoise Dossmann for several years in Quito, Ecuador, working at HCJB World Radio. Over the years, Ralph has written several articles about the Dossmanns.