Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Desperately Seeking Inspiration

I've been doing the most random things in my practice since attending the Winston Salem Dulcimer Festival this past weekend. Most significant is the fact that I actually AM practicing!

Why do people go to dulcimer festivals, anyway? To be sure, there are as many reasons as there are people in the room. One reason I go is I'm always on the look-out for inspiration. I guess it worked. Look what I've been doing this week:

  • I loved hearing Sarah Morgan sing and play the mountain dulcimer during Saturday night's concert. What a voice! What a talent! On Sunday morning she went on to sing at St. Anne's Episcopal Church, Winston-Salem. I did not attend that service, but thanks to the internet and a link seen on FaceBook I was able to hear a recording of her rendition of "Praise to the Lord". It's a beautiful hymn. I was so inspired, I went directly to my instrument and came up with my own arrangement before bedtime Sunday night. Alas, I have not added my own singing voice.
  • Joshua Messick taught an advanced class called "Out of the Box" in which he emphasized practicing the chromatic scale and using it to learn every sort of interval possible on the hammered dulcimer. Now, I know how to find the chromatic scale, but I haven't practiced it enough to be absolutely fluent ascending and descending. Nor have I worked at internalizing all the funky chromatics at the upper and lower ends of my instrument. You know … those strings on the extra bridges? The ones that haven't been tuned in a while?! Guess what, as of this week I'm becoming proficient.
  • One of the joys of attending dulcimer festivals is the opportunity to visit and play with long-time friends, such as Marya Katz. Marya taught the beginning beginner class on Saturday. On Friday evening, I participated in her drum circle. Marya really knows how to make music fun and inclusive. She had all of us beating on drums, shaking and rattling percussion instruments, communicating with each other rhythmically, and actually ending on the same beat! I guess she was on my mind as I set about looking for a tune to do with one of my students this week. I remembered her "La Luna Giubilante", a duet for hammered dulcimer featured on Mel Bay's Dulcimer Sessions webzine back in August 2007. I now have a new, very cool tune, and the duet part (the backup) was perfect for my student! I think that she is feeling inspired now. It must be contagious!
What have you been inspired to do lately?


  1. The festival gets better and better. I was fortunate to have instruction from Ruth Smith and Stephen Humphries; two very different approaches to teaching and both EXCELLENT teachers. Thanks to Terry Lefler for the countless hours he volunteers managing this event from year to year.

    1. You've got that right, Lee! Winston Salem Dulcimer Festival, under Terry Lefler's guidance, brings in top-notch instructor / performers year after year. We are so lucky to have that right in our own back yard!