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Saturday, July 23, 2011

Western Carolina Mountain Dulcimer Week

Nestled in the Appalachian mountains of western North Carolina, Western Carolina University is the setting for another week-long exploration of musical growth and learning, this one focused on the mountain dulcimer.  I've been blessed to teach and perform at this festival several times in the past, but this one was a very special blend of teachers and students.

Larry & Elaine Conger, Steve, Janita Baker, Sarah Elizabeth,
Jim Miller, Marsha Harris, Dave Haas & Joe Collins

The faculty concert on Thursday night was another highlight of this year's Mountain Dulcimer Week at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, North Carolina. 

Mount Jackson / Just a Sliver
After watching Dave Haas' video from a David Schnaufer 1999 concert in West Virginia the night before, I felt like I was channeling David when playing this uptempo medley in DAC tuning.
A finger-picked Girl from Ipanema was in the 2nd set, accompanied by shaker and vocals from Elaine Conger and vocal percussion from the audience.

Lil Plumer, Dan Grimm, Julie Elman
Of course my Master Class delved deeply into the music behind the performance, the tools and techniques for setting that music on the dulcimer, and the necessary preparation and polishing for performing those songs and tunes.  They graciously and openly received, supported and critiqued their own arrangements and performances (and mine, too!), developing a special bond of trust that inspired them to further growth as musicians.

 I was delighted to play with and be the guest conductor of the Dulcimer Ensemble Class with Larry and Elaine Conger.  

We shared trio arrangements of Holy Manna, Rock-A-My-Soul and the Finale of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony.  

They did an excellent job of learning to play independent parts, while not necessarily seated beside people playing the same parts, playing rests, adding and remembering to play dynamically, utilizing staccato skills and had a very strong finish!  After only 3 short days of rehearsal—I am so proud of them!

My soul-tank returns home full from this one!

(Thanks to Larry Conger & Mr. Deadwyler for photos I didn't take.)

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Kentucky Music Week Highlights

I was blessed once again to share musical explorations with the fun people that Nancy Barker gathers each year in Bardstown, Kentucky (home of Stephen Foster.)

I taught Blues & Jazz to hammered dulcimer players.  (photo by Ilace Mears)

I led a mixed group of mountain and hammered dulcimer players through some symphonic music in many parts (Christmas Carols, selected variations of Pachelbel's Canon in D, Southern Harmony shape-note tunes, Vivaldi's Spring from the "Four Seasons" and a brand new arrangement of Beethoven's Sonatina in G, for 4 parts:  2 mountain and 2 hammered dulcimer parts).

I also taught hymns and mixolydian tunes for hammered dulcimer, and gave a rollicking didjeridoo demonstration, complete with many people trying out their technique.  We decided that the best way to help people pronounce the name of this Australian aboriginal instrument is to ask:  "did you re-do your house or hair?"

Other highlights included several pickup bands that serenaded the folks in the lunchline.  I led a Brass Band that featured Mark Alan Wade and I on trumpet, Robert Force on trombone and Eric Jarboe on Tuba! (photo by Marsha Harris)  On another day I participated in a fun string band playing my Don Neuhauser Dulci-bro.  (photo by Nancy Seifert)

Of course, concert performances are fun and this year I played Duke Ellington's "Mood Indigo" my David Myhre Electric Mountain Dulcimer.  (THAT's the chord I was looking for in FAC tuning!)

That was followed by rock on rock, dedicated to the folks rebuilding their church following the tornado (Peace Lutheran Church in Joplin, MO--where I gave a dulcimer concert some years ago.)

The audience did a fine job on construction percussion for this one, too. (photos by Marsha Harris)

Of course a week like this can't go by without recalling the jam sessions like this one that go into the wee hours of the morning, especially when you are playing and learning more old-time tunes in the key of "A" with Ken Kolodner on fiddle and Cathy Barton Para on banjo!

Finally, my ambition was realized:  to be a "Pip" for Gladys Knight!!  Okay, it was just a back-up dancer for Van Morrison's Brown-Eyed Girl, but in my memories we're on the midnight train to Georgia, singing "!.....