Maybe you’ve seen some of her online videos. MiMi Hashizume plays a great variety of music on the hammered dulcimer: Everything from traditional Japanese tunes to Western classical music, from Irish fiddle tunes to pop, from anime to jazz. With a variety of accompanists or bandmates. Performed with clarity and elegance, and often incorporating a beautiful tremolo.
She grew up in Japan, spent several years in the United Kingdom, and now lives in Tokyo. (She has taught English in her home country.) Her first serious instrument was the piano, but then she fell in love with the hammered dulcimer and taught herself to play it.
MiMi has appeared in numerous Japanese music TV programs, and has done many recordings for Japanese dramas, movies, and animes. She has recorded four CDs, solo and with other musicians. In addition, she has more than 80 private students, in-person and online.
Cristian Huet saw his first dulcimer as a youth, at a small folk festival near his home in Brittany, a region of France with a strong Celtic history. He tried one, found it easy (because he already played guitar), and told his father, “I want a dulcimer.” He figured out how to play on his own and created his own style. At the time, he thought that dulcimers were only Celtic, and it wasn’t until ten years later that he learned about the instrument’s American heritage.
Inspired by electric violinist Jean-Luc Ponty, he wanted to play solid-body electric dulcimers, but not being aware that any existed, he learned from his father and local luthiers how to build his own instruments.
Meanwhile, he also was developing as a guitarist, and wound up playing guitar in a fairly well-known punk / alternative rock band for a number of years. He learned all the rock guitar and bass techniques – tapping, sweep picking, hammer-ons, bends, slap, crunch sound, fuzz, MIDI, etc. – and began applying them to the dulcimer, as well.
He eventually began performing with dulcimers and formed his own group, the “Celtet.” Over time, though, he decided to focus on performing solo and encouraging more widespread and more modern use of the dulcimer. Even Jean Ritchie recognized his contributions to the instrument; she once referred to Cristian as “a very good player … doing very interesting things.” Nowadays, Cristian applies those modern techniques mostly to acoustic dulcimers – diatonic dulcimers, and usually without a 6+ fret.
In his life, he has played more than 1,000 concerts so far, he has recorded two dulcimer albums, and he’s one of the most unique and interesting musicians you’ll ever see.
It’s true. In September 2019, Grant Olson won the National Mountain Dulcimer Championship, while he was still in high school, using a dulcimer that he made with cardboard and Styrofoam for $8.
Grant discovered mountain dulcimers in 2013, at a workshop run by Karen Mueller in his native Minnesota. He became so enchanted with the instrument that his mother got a dulcimer, along with some books. Ultimately, he wound up taking lessons with Karen. He also credits books by Janita Baker and Lois Hornbostel for expanding his horizons on the instrument.
When he played in an open mic at Buckeye Dulcimer Festival a few years ago, people there said they loved his playing and that he should compete at the National Mountain Dulcimer competition in Winfield, Kansas. At the time, he was perhaps 12 or 13, so he didn't pursue it. But a few years later, he decided to go for it. His winning competition pieces included a couple of fiddle tunes, Scott Joplin’s “The Entertainer,” and Mozart’s “Rondo Alla Turca.”
In addition to Nutmeg, Grant taught at the Chromatic Dulcimer Summit over the summer. He is now away at college in Ohio.
Music on the hammered dulcimer has been part of Bill Robinson’s life from the very beginning. He is a third generation player: He learned hammered dulcimer from his dad, Ross Robinson [1900-1976], who in turn learned it from his mother, Emma Van Fossen [1868-1944]. And earlier generations of his family were musicians in West Central Illinois, as well. Bill started playing music at the age of 6 years, learning the dobro, guitar, banjo, fiddle, mandolin, and (a few years later) the hammered dulcimer.
In his mid-twenties, Bill formed his first band, and he went on to play with a series of bands, including the Illinois Country Opry and then the Wagon Wheel Opry – both of which backed up many Grand Ole Opry stars and Nashville singers who were touring in the area. (In addition, Bill has composed many tunes of his own, some of which he'll teach in his workshops.)
In the late 1960s, Bill was playing hammered dulcimer on a live TV show. As he struck his first note, one side of his stand collapsed. Luckily, his bass player caught the dulcimer before it fell and was able to hold it up, and Bill managed to play through without missing a beat. After that, Bill decided to attach buttons to the sides of his dulcimer, and started strapping it to his waist instead of using a stand, which became a trademark of his.
In 1980, he formed a new band, "Bill Robinson & Friends," which still performs today. They won the Illinois Country Music Association Bluegrass Band of the Year award each year from 1993 to 2002, and was named the North American Country Music Association Int’l’s (NACMAI) Bluegrass Band of the Year in 2004 and 2005.
Bill has won many individual honors, too, including NACMAI Instrumentalist of the Year award in the Bluegrass category in 2003, 2004, and 2005. He has twice been nominated for the National Heritage Award.
Bill Monroe once invited him on stage to play with his band. Chet Atkins was interested in his playing. Roy Acuff offered him a job at Opryland. And we're honored to have him at Nutmeg this year.
Bill has recorded numerous CDs and compiled a book of his tunes. They're available on his website, along with his unique hammers made from corset stays.
Patti Amelotte became interested in the hammered dulcimer and Traditional Irish music after earning a degree in piano performance from Chapman University. Within a few years, she won the California State Hammered Dulcimer Championship. Patti has performed as a soloist at concerts and festivals in the US and abroad – as well as with the San Diego Symphony for the “Lord of the Rings Suite” – and also on television/movie soundtracks.
Patti performs with Brenda Hunter (a past Nutmeg featured artist) as Flutter-by Music, playing music for two hammered dulcimers, harp, fiddle and accordion. She also plays in the hammered dulcimer duo Better than One, and the Irish band Looney’s Fortune. She teaches private and group lessons in her studio and on Zoom. In addition, she does minor repairs on and restringing of hammered dulcimers, and sells Dusty Strings instruments.
Carmen Amrein is based in Munich, Germany, and has a degree in hackbrett, salterio, zither, folk music, and children's pedagogy from the University of Music and Theater in that city. She teaches and performs on hackbrett and other members of the hammered dulcimer family. Along with Germany, Carmen has performed in Switzerland, Austria, the Czech Republic, Ireland, and Great Britain – and she spent a year teaching and performing in Canada and the USA. She has played in a number of pit orchestras, including as salterio soloist for a production of the Telemann opera Flavius Bertardius in Nuremberg, and she played hackbrett in the premiere of the children's opera Die Verlorenen Gedanken by the Munich composer Marco Hertenstein. Carmen also created a children’s concert series that has been running since 2018. She is a co-organizer of the Hackbrett Online Festival, which will be held October 23-24.
Since his earliest years, it was obvious that Richard Ash was destined to be a musician. He loved singing and performing as a small child, and even got a degree in music education and became a school band director. But it wasn’t until he discovered the Appalachian dulcimer in 2006 that things really took off. He bought Folkcraft Instruments, which has led to him demonstrating, teaching, and performing all across the country, at dulcimer festivals, old-time music events, and even at the music industry’s huge NAMM trade show. In addition, he organizes the Indiana Dulcimer Festival.
And vending (Folkcraft)
Cliff Cole has been playing hammered dulcimer since 1985. His background is in percussion, and he has studied various types of music including rock, blues, jazz and folk. He performs in the duo Tachyonmetry. His folk group, DayBreak, has been performing together for over 30 years and has produced six CDs. He also does recording session work on hammered dulcimer and percussion. Cliff is a founding member of the Quakertown Area Dulcimer and Autoharp Society (QUADAS), serves on the board of Perkasie Patchwork Coffeehouse, and is a member of the Nutmeg Team.
Bill Collins has been in love with the Appalachian dulcimer for well over 25 years. He has conducted more than 130 dulcimer workshops at festivals in nine states and has taught week-long sessions at Augusta Spring Dulcimer Week and Shenandoah University. Bill has written six books of dulcimer arrangements: two collections of Shaker tunes (one co-written with Nina Zanetti), O’Carolan tunes, Irish jigs, Icelandic folk tunes, and a potpourri of advanced arrangements. He has composed over twenty pieces for the instrument, several of which are featured on a CD entitled The Sum of the Parts, a recording of dulcimer solos and duets performed by Bill and 2008 National Mountain Dulcimer Champion Nina Zanetti.
Carrie Crompton has been exploring the expressive capabilities of the hammered dulcimer for over 25 years, playing British, Breton, Baroque, and Balkan music. She has made award-winning recording with The Barolk Folk and with the Treblemakers. She is the author of The Expressive Dulcimer, a progressive method for the hammered dulcimer, and two books of repertoire for solo hammered dulcimer.
Sam Edelston is on a quest to bring dulcimers into widespread public awareness. He plays many kinds of popular music on acoustic and electric mountain dulcimer, and if a particular song needs notes that aren't on a "standard" dulcimer, he uses one with more frets. This spring, Sam had the unique good fortune to be the featured artist at America's first online dulcimer festival, the Berkeley Dulcimer Gathering. Overall, in 2020-2021, Sam has performed and taught at festivals in New York, Colorado, and Vermont, as well as "virtual" California, New York, Pennsylvania, and (soon) Florida, plus the Chromatic Dulcimer Summit and four QuaranTUNEs. His music videos have been viewed over 1,000,000 times, and his video of "Sweet Caroline" is included in the dulcimer display at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix. Sam also plays guitar, banjo, and hammered dulcimer, and is chair of this festival.
Ashley Ernst is the publisher of Dulcimer Players News, a quarterly, print magazine that has kept the dulcimer community connected since 1974. Before taking the reins at DPN, she worked as a journalist for weekly and daily newspapers and then as a 7th and 8th grade English teacher. These days her office mates include four cats and four dogs. Ashley lives on a farm in mid-Missouri where she and her husband raise beef cattle, keep chickens, grow a garden and milk a dairy cow named Hope.
Ever since Songbird Dulcimers founder Chris Foss saw his first fine guitar, he wanted to make musical instruments. In 1979, he went to Charles Fox's School of Guitar Research and Design, in Vermont, and it was a pivotal moment in his life. After a number of years in the cabinet business, in 1992 he left and began making musical instruments, and he soon found a niche in hammered dulcimers,
One thing he especially likes about hammered dulcimers is that "we get to invent it ourselves." For example, he sometimes puts his soundholes on the back of the instrument, facing the audience. And he builds electric dulcimers, as well as acoustic ones. Chris has posted a number of videos of his experiments with effect pedals. Songbird is located in Muscatine, IA.
Mark Gilston has been performing traditional folk music for over fifty years. His vast repertoire encompasses songs and instrumentals from North America and most of Europe, particularly the British Isles, Scandinavia, and the Balkans. His performances are laced with humor and a wide base of eclectic knowledge. Mark, an award-winning mountain dulcimer player (National Dulcimer Champion (2016), also plays concertina, guitar, banjo, Bulgarian bagpipes, pennywhistle, ocarina, tambura, and others.
Mark was born and raised in New York City. Both of his parents were steeped in the folk music revival scene of the 1950s. He grew up listening to 78s and LPs of American, Russian, Spanish, Caribbean, and Israeli folk music, and he went on to get a college degree in Folklore. Mark has lived in Texas since 2002.
Michele Gourley is a prize-winning mountain dulcimer player and classically-trained percussionist, and holds degrees in medicine, public health and theology. She is a graduate of the International Bluegrass Music Association's “Leadership Bluegrass” initiative and has coordinated wellness programs for IBMA's National Conference since 2018. Her musical journeys with the mountain dulcimer have led her to write songs and perform in a variety of places, such as hospitals in North Carolina, listening rooms in New York City, and small, remote fishing villages in Iceland. When she’s not playing mountain dulcimer, she works as a hospital chaplain in Manhattan.
John Hallberg is a dulcimer historian who lives at the tip of the Blue Ridge in Virginia – a location that has allowed him to travel deep into Appalachia in search of America’s musical past. Over the past 20 years, he has collected a good number of historically significant instruments. He is preparing to open the Appalachian Dulcimer Museum in Sperryville, VA, in an old mill that also will be making cider. John is also working on a website that will document key parts of the collection online, through professional photos, as well as descriptions and taxonomy.
Judy is from Winston-Salem, NC, where she lives with her husband, Kirk. A graduate of Campbell University, she is a retired public education teacher. Having been involved with music all her life playing the piano, flute, and other instruments, she was asked 10 years ago to teach dulcimer at her local community college. This led to a new career for her! She now enjoys teaching groups and individuals in her area as well as festivals all over.
Judy’s passion for teaching, as well as playing, the dulcimer has led to her teaching at festivals around the country, including Dutchland Dulcimer Festival, the North Georgia Foothills Dulcimer Association Festival, and Black Mountain Music Week, among others. She was recently the presenter at Folkcraft’s Second Saturday Clinic.
Workshops (MD & ALL)
Kirk House has been playing the dulcimer for 12 years; for the last six years he has specialized in the bass dulcimer. He is a Nationally Certified Dulcimer Teacher, through Western Carolina University (Dulcimer U program). Kirk plays several different styles and designs of bass dulcimer, including 3-string, 4-string, and double-bass. He performs as part of a duo with his wife, Judy House, as well as a member of the trio ‘Cantabile-Jubilee’ and the quartet string section, ‘SASSY.’
Other musical interests of Kirk’s include mandolin, bowed dulcimer, ukulele, and shape-note singing. Kirk is delighted to be making his first appearance at Nutmeg as an instructor.
Workshops (MD & Bass MD)