If you’ve ever visited Murphy’s PubHouse off of Olio and 116th and sat at the bar, you have probably heard the voracious laugh coming from the male bartender who offers you just a modest glimpse of his vocal ability. You can’t count to 30 before you hear his notorious lingering snicker that is unforgettable and yet quite appropriate as we head into the Halloween season. Depending on whom you ask, some say that his laugh is robust, domineering and infectious.
“I’ve been told my laugh is evil,” says Dennis Bowling, the bartender who has been at Murphy’s since it opened. “Many say that my laugh sounds like Dracula.” The talent within Dennis is not just his chuckle that resonates within his vocal chords, but the fact that he can sing very well. You see, Dennis is an opera singer. He used to sing in New York but now sings in up to four operas a year at the Indianapolis Opera.
Dennis was born and raised in Pendleton. He began playing the oboe in fifth grade. By the time he reached Pendleton High School, he also played the French horn and saxophone while singing in the choir. He admits that he had to eventually drop out of band because it got it be too much doing both, playing in the band and singing in the choir.
Dennis studied Theatre Arts/Communications with a minor in French at Kalamazoo College in Michigan. He starred in many musicals and plays while singing in two choirs. He recalls how his voiced changed dramatically. “I went from singing a high tenor to a low bass within a semester. My voice was cracking all over the place.” To maintain his trained voice, he took private voice lessons all through school.
Eventually he moved to New York for a theatre job and continued taking private voice lessons. His voice instructor urged him to audition for The Juilliard School in New York. Dennis says, “I think he was trying to prove to me that I had more ability and technique than I thought.” His instructor was right. Dennis was accepted into this prestigious performing arts institute founded in 1905.
Not long after, the founder of New York Grand Opera, Vincent La Selva, not only offered Dennis the opportunity to participate with the workshop courses but also as a member of the chorus for Aida (opera written in four acts) at Carnegie Hall. Although he was very successful in New York, Dennis returned to Indy to be with his ailing father who passed away in 2006.
Starring with His Sidekick
He started tending bar in 2005 here in the Fishers/Geist area where he met a bartender that has become a close friend. Her name is Tonya Fodor. They have worked together for almost 10 years. “We kind of read each other’s minds a lot,” says Dennis before he unleashes his evil laugh. Together they have built up quite a reliable clientele.
They both came to Murphy’s (www.murphyspubhouse.com) upon its opening, and they continue to find customers they have known for years. “The other day, I saw a customer who came in and said, ‘Oh, so there you are. I was wondering where you were!’” says Tonya who has a two-year-old son named Wyatt.
Dennis and Tonya represent one impressive team who know how to treat their customers with top-notch service. Together they have a knack for making their customers laugh and stay happy. You may not remember the beer at 45 degrees that they serve you, but you will remember the laugh that is 45 notches down in pitch from a tenor to a deep bass. As Tonya says about working with Dennis, “He has been an adventure. There’s never a dull moment.”
Dennis’ next opera appearance will be in The Girl of the Golden West March 21 and 23 at Clowes Memorial Hall. He continues to perform in the chorus in order to keep his voice sharp and support the art community. He says, “I implore you to attend the art events here in Indy because this city really needs it.”