Monday, December 30, 2019

Monday's Muse

And now let us believe in a long year that is given to us, new, untouched, full of things that have never been, full of work that has never been done, full of tasks, claims, and demands; and let us see that we learn to take it without letting fall too much of what it has to bestow upon those who demand of it necessary, serious, and great things.  ~ Rainer Maria Rilke

Monday, December 23, 2019

Monday's Muse

Music can name the unnameable and communicate the unknowable.  ~ Leonard Bernstein

Monday, December 16, 2019

Monday's Muse

To live is to be musical, starting with the blood dancing in your veins. Everything living has a rhythm. Do you feel your music?  ~ Michael Jackson

Monday, December 9, 2019

Monday's Muse

Music is the language of the spirit. It opens the secret of life - bringing peace, abolishing strife.  ~ Kahlil Gibran

Monday, December 2, 2019

Monday's Muse

Music isn't just a pleasure, a transient satisfaction. It's a need, a deep hunger. And when the  music is right, it's joy, love, a foretaste of heaven.  ~ Orson Scott Card

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Happy Thanksgiving!

For each new morning with its light,
    for rest and shelter of the night,
    for health and food, for love and friends,
    for everything Thy goodness sends...  ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Monday, November 25, 2019

Monday's Muse

If the only prayer you say in your life is 'thank you', that would suffice.  ~ Meister Eckhart

Monday, November 18, 2019

Monday's Muse

Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without.  ~ Confucius

Monday, November 11, 2019

Monday's Muse

To play without passion is inexcusable!  ~ Ludwig von Beethoven

Monday, November 4, 2019

Monday's Muse

Music is a weapon in the war against unhappiness.  ~ Jason Mraz

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Eat the Frog First

 "If it's your job to eat a frog, it's best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it's your job to eat two frogs, it's best to eat the biggest one first."  ~ Mark Twain

Has the time come to stop procrastinating and just do the work that is required to accomplish something?

I'm making a public declaration that this will the year that I intentionally practice arpeggios.

I know my arpeggio shapes. I recognize them. I play them... just not enough. Not enough to play pattern combinations fluently up and down the full range of my instrument. Not enough to play major and minor chords with ease. Not enough to execute with the added test of speed.

So, beginning October 15, I am including 15-20 minutes of arpeggio practice in my daily practice. I do the arpeggio practice first. The time passes quickly and seems to be the amount needed to ingrain a particular pattern sequence for a given chord and complete a speed test.

It has been truly humbling. I have a ways to go before I can even pretend to be speedy. I'm identifying some real weaknesses. And I'm counting on a significant pay-off!

What's your frog??

Monday, October 28, 2019

Monday's Muse

Take a music bath once or twice a week for a few seasons. You will find it is to the soul what a water bath is to the body.  ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes

Monday, October 21, 2019

Monday's Muse

Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.  ~ Steve Jobs

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

The Value of Attending Workshops

Just back from Ken Kolodner's Sandbridge HD Retreat. Can you believe? I've been attending this autumn beach retreat for 15 years? Before that, I was a regular for nearly as many years at the Swannanoa Gathering Warren Wilson College until after the summer of 2011 when Dulcimer Week was discontinued.

Workshops, retreats, festivals help keep one on track along the musical journey. As we all know, it's not the destination ... you've got to enjoy the ride! It's nice to have some companions along the way.

What's to gain from attending dulcimer workshops?
  • learn something
  • be reminded of something you should have practiced / learned
  • set new goals ... keep raising the bar
  • enjoy different styles of playing and teaching
  • be "wowed" but what can be done with the instrument
  • maybe meet your role model / mentor / guru
  • be inspired, maintain high level of self-motivation
  • play lots of music
  • meet old / new friends
There are plenty of opportunities to get out there in the dulcimer community. Dulcimer Players News is a good resource for information about festivals that occur all across the country. (If you don't already subscribe to this quarterly publication, you should!)

For you Triangle Trapezoids, here's a quick rundown of what's coming up in OUR area:
And don't forget to watch this space for timely info about more local dulcimer events!

Monday, October 14, 2019

Monday's Muse

The easiest way to avoid wrong notes is to never open your mouth and sing. What a mistake that would be.  ~ Pete Seeger

Monday, October 7, 2019

Monday's Muse

Improvised music involves a lot of intuition and I like developing intuition.  ~ Fred Frith

Monday, September 30, 2019

Monday's Muse

I've got to take chances and get out there. What are you going to do, sit home and knit? I don't knit.  ~ Cybill Shepherd

Monday, September 23, 2019

Monday's Muse

You create a community with music, not just at concerts but by talking about it with your friends.  ~ David Byrne

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Go Slow

Slow down, you move too fast. You got to make the morning last.  ~ Paul Simon

I can't believe it's been well over a year since I followed my husband into retirement. I have to admit ... I miss my students and I miss the teaching. But the freedom to come and go has allowed for some pretty incredible experiences.

We are travelers. We enjoy the outdoors. We crave adventure. Well ... maybe "crave" is too strong a word for me, but I willingly join Rouse the Spouse as he seeks to satisfy his wanderlust. It has taken me to some exotic places.

I recently realized there has been a consistent message coming through our travel experiences... one that has implications for many aspects of life and is certainly appropriate in the practice of music.

Go Slow

  • It's the motto of the tiny island, Caye Caulker, Belize, for goodness sake!
  • While on safari in Kenya and Tanzania, our crew reminded us, "Pole, pole!" - slowly, slowly in Swahili.
  • Preparing to hike over two 16,000' passes on the Chimolhari trek in the Himalayas of Bhutan, we were told ... hike slow and steady, especially on the ascent ... even if you can walk faster. This to allow our bodies the time required to adjust to the the new extreme environment.

Slow Down

It's universal advice! And a practice strategy that serves the musician well. After all, one can play a piece of music only as fast as the most difficult part ... right?

There's a lot to put together in a piece of music before it's ready for blast off. It takes time and effort. It's a good thing many of us enjoy the challenge ... finding it to be an engrossing and gratifying process on the way to mastering the instrument.

Try this in your own practice:

  • Move in slow motion, all the while being fully mindful, highly engaged, and thinking deeply in real time about what you're doing. Are you nailing every single tiny detail?
  • Consider using a metronome. It will help keep everything on track, with no runaway passages.
  • Don't think in bits. Think in chunks... measures / phrases as opposed to individual notes. Recognize your movement patterns. Moving in integrated gestures is required for up-tempo playing.
  • Expressively shape passages. Practice accents. Play with swing. Add all the good stuff!
  • Anticipate what's coming. Make note of difficult sections. Give yourself cues to overcome difficult passages.
  • Record your practice. Listen and critique yourself. Make adjustments.

If you cultivate the right habits you will acquire the ease that allows speed. What to do next?

Again, I recommend you use your metronome. Begin at a comfortable speed where everything is just right. Gradually, incrementally, increase the tempo. Or ... the most fun way to practice up-to-tempo ...  play with others! Practice with recorded music, attend a jam session, find a music buddy, etc.

Here's an interesting read from "The Strad" ... 10 different views on the benefits of slow practice, each one only 1-paragraph long. These are professional classical musicians speaking. Good wisdom, and they say it much better than I!  

Monday, September 16, 2019

Monday's Muse

Music is a way to dream together and go to another dimension.  ~ Cecilia Bartoli

Monday, September 9, 2019

Monday's Muse

Music is a whole oasis in my head. The creation process is so personal and fulfilling.  ~ River Phoenix

Monday, September 2, 2019

Monday's Muse

If you're not scared then you're not taking a chance. If you're not taking a chance then what the hell are you doing anyway?  ~ Ted Mosby

Friday, August 30, 2019

CTO ... Play Music on the Porch Day TOMORROW!

Play Music on the porch Day is tomorrow, August 31.

"Together let us show the world the power that music holds."

Check This Out ... Participation is easy. Just go outside and play music! Share a video on your social media platform. Add #playmusicontheporchday   Have fun!

Official info here:
Check out the facebook page:

Monday, August 26, 2019

Monday's Muse

Music education can help spark a child's imagination or ignite a lifetime of passion.  ~ Hillary Clinton

Monday, August 19, 2019

Monday's Muse

For me, everything definitely comes from music.  ~ Mike Myers

Friday, August 16, 2019

CTO ... HD returning to W-S Dulcimer Festival in 2020

Many of us were sad when the long-standing Winston-Salem Dulcimer Festival hit hard times and had to be reconfigured back in 2016. The Camel City Strummers took it on, but in a smaller, more manageable form. Unfortunately, the hd players had to be left out.

Check This Out ...  Fast forward to 2020, the 26th year of the festival. The hammered dulcimers are invited back! It will be a different format than attendees from previous years remember. The festival is now one day only, with one morning session and one afternoon session offered by one instructor for hammered dulcimer players. This year's instructor will be Marya Katz, of Blacksburg, VA. Many Trapezoids of the Triangle are familiar with Marya's teaching. Many have attended her annual MLK Day workshops.

Save the date! May 2, 2020
More specific details to be announced at a later time

To read more about the 25 year history of the Winston-Salem Dulcimer Festival (including the changes made in 2016) check out this January 20, 2016 post: No Place for Hammered Dulcimers at WSDF-2016

Monday, August 12, 2019

Monday's Muse

Music is intended and designed for sentient beings that have hopes and purposes and emotions.  ~ Jacques Barzun

Friday, August 9, 2019

CTO ... Dan Duggan Returns to the Triangle this Fall

Check This Out ... Dan Duggan - noted teacher, performer and national HD champion from upstate NY - is returning to the Triangle for a workshop and concert in November, at The Kirk of Kildaire, 200 High Meadow Drive, Cary.

All-Day Workshop
Saturday, November 2
2-1/2 hour morning AND afternoon sessions (come to one or both)
specific time to be announced
at The Kirk in Cary

Workshop Fees:
$35 for either morning or afternoon workshop OR $60 for both
$5 for lunch provided from Subway (includes sandwich, cookie, drink) OR bring your own bag lunch

Concert w/ Peggy Lynn & Dan Duggan
Sunday, November 3
3:00 - 4:00pm
at The Kirk in Cary

For more information or to register, please contact:
Mark Rose,

Monday, August 5, 2019

Monday's Muse

I believe 100 percent in the power and importance of music.  ~ James Taylor

Friday, August 2, 2019

CTO ... Register NOW for Black Mountain Music Festival

Registration is underway for the 4th annual Black Mountain Music Festival held at the YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly October 12-17, 2019 in Black Mountain, NC.

Check This Out ... Top-notch teacher / performers for all levels of both hammered dulcimer and mountain dulcimer, with bonus classes in ukulele, autoharp, guitar, and banjo. Offering quite a line-up of challenging classes, entertaining concerts, and epic jam sessions ... in the company of old and new friends ... smack-dab in the middle of the blazing autumn beauty of the mountains of western North Carolina. What's not to like?

Trapezoids of the Triangle - This fantastic festival is in our own backyard. Don't miss it. Make plans now!

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Time to re-Activate this Blog

Oh, boy ... it's been a long minute since this little project was updated! Let's see what we can do about that in the coming week. Stay tuned...

Monday, May 6, 2019

Monday's Muse

If you want to achieve a high goal, you're going to have to take some chances.  ~ Alberto Salazar

Monday, April 29, 2019

Monday's Muse

Music enriches people’s lives in the same way paintings and literature do. Everybody deserves that.  ~ Victoria Wood

Monday, April 22, 2019

Monday's Muse

Wake up, live your life and sing the melody of your soul.  ~ Amit Ray

Monday, April 15, 2019

Monday's Muse

The true beauty of music is that it connects people. It carries a message, and we, the musicians, are the messengers.  ~ Roy Ayers

Monday, April 8, 2019

Monday's Muse

Take chances, make mistakes. That's how you grow. Pain nourishes your courage. You have to fail in order to practice being brave.  ~ Mary Tyler Moore

Monday, April 1, 2019

Monday's Muse

Always be a first-rate version of yourself instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.  ~ Judy Garland

Friday, March 29, 2019

CTO ... Music Brings People Together

Check This Out ... Last Saturday, Martha & Richard Adams opened up their beautiful home to 15 trapezoids - and a couple of guitar, fiddle players - who gathered for a day of magical music on the mountaintop. There was plenty of playing, learning, sharing, jamming - culminating in an evening house-concert attended by 30 friends and neighbors. A good time was had by all!

Here's a list of tunes played in the jams:
Over the Waterfall - Angelina Baker - Whiskey Before Breakfast - Road to Lisdoonvarna - NC Breakdown - Lady of the Lake - John Ryan's - Whiteface - Snowdrops - OK Rooster - Miss Murphy - Willafjord - Done Gone - Da Slocket Licht - Josefin's - Falls of Richmond - Caspian Lake - Dull Chisel - Tipping Back the Corn - Hangman's Reel - Sandy Boys - Shenandoah Falls - Pickin' the Berries - Johnny Cope - Caspian Lake - Amelia's - Southwind - Tombigbee's - The Rose by the Door - Midnight on the Water - Kelvingrove - Si Bheag Si Mohr - Ashgrove - Ashokan Farewell - My Cape Breton Home - Louis' Waltz - Boda Waltz - Give Me Your Hand - For Ireland - Forvantan - Lover's Waltz - Sal's Got Mud Between Her Toes - Coleman's March

Monday, March 25, 2019

Monday's Muse

Music brings a warm glow to my vision, thawing mind and muscle from their endless wintering.  ~ Haruki Murakami

Monday, March 18, 2019

Monday's Muse

It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold... when it is summer in the light and winter in the shade.  ~ Charles Dickens

Monday, March 11, 2019

Monday's Muse

Music is very spiritual, it has the power to bring people together.  ~ Edgar Winter

Friday, March 8, 2019

CTO ... Sue Wilson's article published in DPN

Dulcimer Players News, Volume 45, No. 1 (Feb 2019) arrived in mailboxes more than a week ago while I was hiking over snow-covered trails in the Flat Irons of Colorado. I'm always thrilled to receive DPN in the mail. I usually sit right down and page through the entire magazine to see what's happening in the greater dulcimer world.

But Check This Out ... the current publication happens to be of special interest to me because it includes an article that I wrote!

The most recent magazine includes several articles around the theme of festivals and workshops. You'll find a calendar listing of 2019 festivals and a "how-to" guide for attending festivals. My article is about the friendships and community that develop out of these events, drawing from my own experiences at the Swannanoa Gathering, Warren Wilson College, Black Mountain, NC and Ken Kolodner's Sandbridge Hammered Dulcimer Retreat at Sandbridge, VA. Trapezoids of the Triangle will recognize names mentioned and faces pictured.

I hope each of you already has a subscription to Dulcimer Players News ... "a quarterly magazine and CD filled with instruction, interviews, and stories for and about dulcimer enthusiasts. It's your connection to tradition and community." Ashley Ernst is the new editor, and she's doing a great job! If not, don't miss another issue! SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

Monday, March 4, 2019

Monday's Muse

Today is the only day of the year that tells you to DO something -- March 4th.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Monday's Muse

A strange art – music – the most poetic and precise of all the arts, vague as a dream and precise as algebra.  ~ Guy de Maupassant

Monday, February 18, 2019

Monday's Muse

Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.  ~Jim Ryun

Monday, February 11, 2019

Monday's Muse

The most exciting rhythms seem unexpected and complex, the most beautiful melodies simple and inevitable. ~ W.H. Auden

Monday, February 4, 2019

Monday's Muse

Some days there won’t be a song in your heart. Sing anyway. ~ Emory Austin

Monday, January 28, 2019

Monday's Muse

Music is therapy. Music moves people. It connects people in ways that no other medium can. It pulls heart strings. It acts as medicine. ~ Macklemore

Monday, January 21, 2019

Monday's Muse

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?  ~ Mary Oliver

Friday, January 18, 2019

CTO ... Song of the Wood has Moved!

You may have heard rumors and talk... but now it has come to pass. Song of the Wood, North Carolina's premier dulcimer shop, has relocated. Jerry Read Smith has announced the opening of the new showroom.

Check This Out:  Jerry has taken the showroom home... a few steps out his front door and adjoined to his workshop and Perelandra Studio. The entire complex is up a ridge, overlooking the magnificent Blue Ridge Mountains.

Jerry reports the downtown Black Mountain building that has housed Song of the Wood since 1980 was sold. So, the first week of January they packed up and moved to the East Asheville location.

Open hours for the store are limited:  Saturdays, 10:00am - 2:00pm, BUT visits may be scheduled by appointment any day of the week. Jerry notes that the phone number, email and website addresses have not changed. There is a new facebook page and the opportunity to follow on instagram.

Song of the Wood still carries the same beautiful instruments - hammered and mountain dulcimers, bowed and plucked psalteries, some harps, as well as books and accessories, music, gifts, and more. In addition, there is always the online store.

Check out the website for photos and more information.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Monday's Muse

Music sounds different to the one who plays it. It is the musician’s curse.  ~ Patrick Rothfuss

Monday, January 7, 2019

Monday's Muse

I've seen women insist on cleaning everything in the house before they could sit down to write... and you know it's a funny thing about housecleaning... it never comes to an end. Perfect way to stop a woman. A woman must be careful to not allow over-responsibility (or over-respectabilty) to steal her necessary creative rests, riffs, and raptures. She simply must put her foot down and say no to half of what she believes she "should" be doing. Art is not meant to be created in stolen moments only.  ~ Clarissa Pinkola Estés

Friday, January 4, 2019

CTO ... Marya Katz Presenting Annual Workshop on MLK Day

Marya Katz, of Blacksburg VA, is back, with her annual all-day hammered dulcimer workshop on MLK Monday. What a great way to begin the new year ... musical inspiration in the company of old and new friends.

This workshop will be geared to advanced-beginner to intermediate players, but Marya says ALL are welcome! She will assist beginners as needed, and says that even advanced players will get some interesting arranging ideas to try... plus some new tunes! Since this is a "repertoire" session rather than a "technique" session, the focus will be learning the tunes and nuances of Welsh music.

Check This Out for all the details ... and come join the fun!

Monday, January 21, 2019
Doors open 8:15am
Workshop 9:00am - 3:30pm

College Park Baptist Church
1701 Polo Road, Winston Salem, NC

The Theme:
Exploring the Unique Sounds of the Music of Wales
(i.e. Celtic, but NOT Irish or Scottish)

The Schedule:
8:15                        Gather to tune, get coffee and snacks (included), hug old friends
9:00am - 3:30pm    Workshop, with a break for lunch (also included)

How Much?
$65 - payable at the door
covers the cost of the workshop, all materials, coffee / snacks, and a box lunch

How to Register?
Contact BOTH Marya at AND Terry Lefler
so Marya will know how many packets of information to prepare and Terry can make arrangements with you for lunch.

Special Requests (i.e. need tablature? don't need lunch? something else?)
Please email Marya Katz 

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

And speaking of new things ...

There's a new dulcimer in the music room. Isn't THAT a fantastic way to start the year!

It seems that I've come full circle. In October 1995, I bought my first hammered dulcimer through Song of the Wood, Black Mountain, NC. It was a Master Works, 15/14 instrument. It was a great instrument to learn on, but eventually I needed more notes.

In 2004 I contracted with Jerry Read Smith to build a custom 3-1/2 octave instrument for me. This instrument failed in the first year due to a new glue system Jerry was using in production. For a reasonable agreed-upon fee, Jerry replaced / upgraded that instrument to a 2004 model JRS 4-1/2 octave Grand Concertmaster that was on display and for sale at his shop, the Song of the Wood. This was a happy outcome, as I didn't have to wait for a new instrument to be built! Plus, I had chosen the 3-1/2 octave instrument in the first place because I didn't think I wanted to haul around a larger instrument. Jerry allowed me to try the Grand Concertmaster at the Swannanoa Gathering dulcimer week. After schlepping it around the Warren Wilson campus for a week I figured I could manage it. I said, "I'll take it!" and never regretted moving up to the extended range.

The JRS Grand Concertmaster developed some issues over time, including a sinking soundboard (successfully repaired in 2006) and annoying buzzes that would come and go. So, in November 2011, I replaced my original JRS Grand Concertmaster with my current instrument... another JRS Grand Concertmaster built in 2000, almost identical to the first, purchased sight-unseen on eBay from a woman in Georgia. The instrument has served me well. And that brings us to the present time...

On October 4, 2018 I ordered a customized Russell Cook Edition 17/17XR-R from Master Works. It was delivered on December 27th. How's that for good service!

Dampers - the real game changer
Photo from Master Works

How long have I had damper lust? Who can say? I do know that I've been "thinking" about a new instrument for years. I've come very close to purchasing a number of different instruments, but none seemed to be "just right". There was always something that posed an unacceptable issue to me. Gradually, more and more players began using dampers. I was feeling very behind the times!

Then Russell Cook came up with this iteration of his Russell Cook Edition (RCE). With Ruth Smith's input, he developed an extended range RCE with:

  • the treble and bass bridges moved closer together
  • the super-bass bridge on the right side of the instrument
  • a 4-1/2 octave chromatically complete instrument in a compact, lightweight body
  • availability in lower sustain
  • and a slick damper system

I have always liked Master Works instruments ... the quality, the sound ... and have admired Russell Cook's personal integrity and the way he runs his business. But the distance between the bridges at the bottom of his larger instruments was a deal breaker. Splayed out, far away from each other, I could not visually see complete patterns at the bottom of those instruments and valley rolls were made unnecessarily difficult. The re-design took care of that problem. Also, I have a definite preference for the low bass notes to be located on the right side of the instrument. Voilá! Plus, the obvious fact that I'm not getting any younger... in recent years I had decided my next instrument would have to be a smaller one.

More desirable options available in this custom instrument:

  • Pick-up optimized for use with this instrument
  • Internal sealant for more stability in tuning
  • Curly maple pin blocks and contrasting wood bindings
  • Choice of exotic woods (I chose leopard wood for the end rails) with the soundboard and the back custom stained to match

Photo from Master Works

Custom sound hole inserts - why Man in the Maze?
Photo from Master Works

Man in the Maze is an ancient Native American design, originally found on Tohono O'odham baskets. This prehistoric pattern symbolizes one's journey through life. My interest in Native American stories and art began at the age of 13 when my mother and step-father married. He was nearly FBI - full blood Indian - 27/32 to be exact, a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. From that time on I spent my summers on the Cherokee Qualla Boundary located in western North Carolina. It is a beautiful place, bordered by the Great Smokey Mountain National Park, and I have very fond memories of the people I grew to know there.

A good description of the iconic Man in the Maze symbol can be found on Garland's Indian Jewelry / Navaho Rugs website. I have included a portion of that description here: According to the legend, the man at the top of the maze depicts birth. By following the white pattern as it winds toward the center, the figure goes through the maze encountering many turns and changes, symbolic of life’s choices. As the journey continues, one acquires knowledge, strength and understanding. The labyrinth illustrates the search for balance in the physical, social, mental and spiritual realms while working toward our dreams and goals.

The crew at Master Works did a fine job of creating these custom sound hole inserts, a beautiful addition that makes this instrument truly unique, and reminds me daily that we are all on a spiritual journey.

It was a pleasure to work with Ruth Smith, who advised and guided me through the process of designing my custom, one-of-a-kind instrument, and acted as my contact and go-between with Master Works to get the order just right.

For help creating your own custom instrument, contact Ruth:  828-297-1918

To find out more about the Master Works RCE instrument check out Steve & Ruth Smith's website: