Dulcimer Celebration Week is always the highlight of an Appalachian musician’s calendar, and this class is particularly unique. It is a combination of students interested in one or both of the two different kinds of dulcimers. There’s the hammer dulcimer, which has been traced back to ancient Persia, and the mountain dulcimer (or lap dulcimer), that is characteristic of the South, even more so than the banjo or the fiddle. Musicians split into two groups according to which instrument they prefer and practice with them at separate locations. Then they come together and play as a unit, harmonizing with each other.
Teaching the class are long time instructors Bill Taylor of Tennessee, Anne Lough and Lois Hornbostel of local North Carolina, and Bonnie Carol of Colorado. “It’s been a pleasure to see the music grow and be promoted,” said Anne, who’s been teaching at the Folk School for 20 years. She has also been an instructor for Mountain Dulcimer Celebration since its beginning in 1999, and is responsible for bringing in the top dulcimer instructors in the country for this week. “The class combines the two instruments in a small, intimate setting, and allows us to celebrate and build on the dulcimer heritage.”
One certain lady is regarded as a type of hero to the ladies collectively, and that lady is folksinger and dulcimer player Jean Ritchie. At the age of 16 she started coming to the Folk School in the 1940s to take classes in dulcimer, and eventually became a contributing factor to the popularization of the instrument. “Ever since she popularized the instrument, the Folk School’s become the Mecca of mountain dulcimer,” says Lois.
Bonnie is one of the first players to compose songs for the instrument. She is also a luthier of mountain dulcimers, meaning that she builds them, and in fact played a role in the early development of playing technique.
These instructors love teaching during Dulcimer Celebration Week, because it gives people an opportunity to “carry on the dulcimer legacy in new ways.”
Also going on is Mountain Dulcimer Building, and believe me this class is a real “knock on wood”. The lively bunch of characters includes returning students Linda and John Darby, who are constructing two dulcimers for their grandchildren. “I’m making a little girl dulcimer for our granddaughter, and my lovely wife is making a little boy dulcimer for our grandson,” said John. The couple personalized their artwork by carving out hearts and turkey tracks on the dulcimers to make them more gender specific.
Cooking Chocolate Delicacies, Japanese Ceremonial Clay Pots, The Mechanisms of Jewelry, Designing Non-Traditional Dolls, Base-Up Basketry, Landscape Photography, Bobbin Lace, Scenery and Pattern Marbling, Segmented Woodturning, Watercolor Landscape Painting, and a Refresher Blacksmith course are all available this week.
Written By: Taylor Bello, Summer Intern from Murphy High School