Thursday, January 21, 2021


It's still January. There's still time to wish you all a happy new year! As the calendar page turns, many of us will take time to turn inward, reflect, make a plan to establish good habits ... begin again.

I bet many of you are optimistically approaching the dulcimer, aiming for more, better, improved practice habits in the coming year. 2020 really messed with my music practice. It was a combination of things, certainly not a lack of time! Priorities shifted. I spent more time in solitude with other creative endeavors, mostly at my sewing machine. We took our camper trailer and traveled across the country for extended visits in Colorado, not once, but twice this fall. I took my dulcimer, but it was hard to focus. I had total replacement of my right hip in late September. Two weeks later the Sandbridge Hammered Dulcimer retreat with Ken Kolodner and support crew Mary Lynn Michal and Laurie McCarriar was certainly a bright spot, zooming old and new friends and the music into my home, providing good structure and reason to get going after surgery. But it took weeks to really feel comfortable at the instrument again. Actually, there were plenty of digital opportunities in the dulcimer world last year... most notably, the well-attended QuaranTUNE virtual dulcimer festival, proving, if nothing else, that humans are adaptable!

Thankful to say that I'm back at it, reviewing previously mastered tunes, getting back to the basics with scales, arpeggios, harmonization exercises, and learning those new tunes from the Sandbridge retreat.

The big surprise is I'm also adding 15 minutes of piano practice to my music schedule. As a kid, I played the piano a lot. It was my escape. Mind you, I'm no master pianist! But since taking up the hammered dulcimer I haven't found time to do both. In recent years, though, I've made a point of getting the piano tuned in December, anticipating a house full of family who might like to play or sing carols ... and then I have fun playing Christmas music all month.

During this past very odd holiday season I enjoyed playing music from Tschaikowsky's ballet, The Nutcracker. I have a book of selected pieces arranged for piano solo by Harry Dexter. The book cost 75 cents back in the day. It has a pink cover. Anybody else remember it, or have a copy?

Amazing how one can get out of physical shape for playing the piano. At first, there were passages where my brain and my fingers felt absolutely disconnected. Then, there was a muscle in my upper left arm that became tired and sore after playing less than 15 minutes. All that has improved! Plus, I'm getting better at reading the notes on those outer ledger lines. 

You heard it here first... my goal is to learn all eight pieces in that book by next December. I'm hoping that experience playing the hammered dulcimer will somehow inform my playing of the piano, and vice versa. I know that at the very least I am getting back to something that used to give me quite a lot of pleasure. Wishing you joy in all of YOUR 2021 endeavors!

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