When his four-year-old ears heard the hammered dulcimer for the first time, Joshua Messick turned to his mom and said, “I promise I will learn to play the hammered dulcimer before I am thirty.” At nine, when he got hold of a pair of dulcimer hammers and coaxed sound from the strings for the first time, a music teacher asked how long he had been taking lessons. “I haven’t,” he said, still going at it. It’s as if Joshua came into this world equipped with a preexisting relationship with the hammered dulcimer. He began arranging music at ten and composing in high school. By the time he was eighteen, he became the 2003 National Hammered Dulcimer Champion.
Fast-forward to today, and Joshua has performed across the country and internationally. He has released seven studio albums, and was the featured instrumentalist on the Japanese animated film Mary and the Witch’s Flower.
Joshua is first and foremost a composer, crafting original compositions drawing from Celtic, Classical, and World styles. For those who love more traditional music, he breathes new life into Folk, Hymns, Classical, and traditional favorites.
“I’ve put my entire life into this music,” he tells an interviewer. “How music relates to people is something that fascinates me. Music is the sound of the human spirit and for me is prayer without words. There has been a process for me to understand the place music has in my life and why I play it. I used to play only for the purpose of becoming good. Now, I play music because I love it with an understanding that music is God’s gift to experience His love and healing. In addition to this, I seek to play honestly from the heart, learn as much as I can, and enjoy music.”
Jerry Rockwell is a musician and luthier who focuses his love of musical structure and fine woodworking on an uncommon American folk instrument, the mountain (Appalachian) dulcimer. A self-described "one-man music laboratory," he uses hand tools to build his instruments and digital tools for music publishing, recording, and streaming his performances online.
As a teenager on Long Island Jerry developed a passion for stringed/fretted instruments and jazz and rock guitar. Then, while a student at SUNY Plattsburgh, he heard the freewheeling mountain dulcimer music of Richard and Mimi Farina and began searching for a dulcimer, and tools for building his own.
Thirteen years of dulcimer building, playing and teaching sparked a move to Ohio in 1983 and eventually led to formal music studies and a BA in music at The Ohio State University. As an inspired nontraditional student, he took courses from counterpoint to electronic music to acoustic physics, and concentration on music theory and composition was the basis for ongoing development and growth as a musician.
During the past five decades, Jerry has played at folk festivals in England, Ireland and Iceland and around the US. He has published nine instructional tunebooks, is featured on many recordings and musical collaborations, has co-founded three dulcimer festivals, and continues to design and build custom acoustic and electric mountain dulcimers. Jerry encourages and challenges dulcimer and guitar students in workshops and online.
Jerry's recent compositions explore the relaxing, meditative sounds of the electric dulcimer. His recent tracks have found their way on to more than 200 playlists on digital streaming platforms.
Sadaf Amiri grew up in Iran, where she started learning the Santur, at the age of 12, and later studied at Tehran Music High School, and then earned a Bachelor’s degree in Iranian Music Performance at Tehran University, before emigrating to Canada. She has earned top prizes in several music competitions in both countries, including the 2019 YGK emerging musician competition (Kingston), and the 2020 Kingston Film Festival Local Music Video Showcase Jury Prize (Kingston). Sadaf also has performed in Turkey and China, and has appeared on half a dozen albums, including her own solo effort, "Flow." In addition to all that, she has a masters degree in music technology, and is working on the production and recording side of the industry. We're honored to have her with us.
HD - Introduction to Persian Music (MID-ADV) - SAT 3
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.
After decades as a professional musician and teacher Ken Bloom now devotes most of his time to building bowed dulcimers and teaching others to play them. He has performed all over North America, including many major festivals and concert venues, and appeared on A Prairie Home Companion. In addition, he's done a lot of recording, beginning with studio work in Los Angeles in the '60s. After all those years of traveling, he now lives quietly with his wife of 53 years and two dogs in the little town of Pilot Mountain, NC, and enjoying passing on his experiences to others.
Workshops (BD, except as noted)
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. His folk group, DayBreak, has been performing together for over twenty years and has produced six CDs. 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.
A Canadian recording artist with Celtic roots, Heather Dale deftly transcends the limits of both Celtic balladeers and folk singer-songwriters. She finds contemporary themes within old material, and fuses folk traditions with blues, jazz, and world music influences. Often compared to Loreena McKennitt and Sarah McLachlan, Dale’s unique vocals are paired with more than a dozen folk instruments in live performances with multi-instrumentalist Ben Deschamps. Together Heather and Ben (both shown at left) built and run OnlineConcertThing.com, helping musicians perform live even when they can't appear in public.
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, Sam has performed and taught at festivals in New York, Colorado, "virtual" California, and QuaranTUNE ... and had additional events in Mississippi, North Carolina, Kentucky, Vermont, and New York postponed to next year. His music videos have been viewed in over 190 countries, 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.
This is Rudy's sixth time as a workshop leader at Nutmeg, bringing his love of blues and classic rock to the Mountain Dulcimer. Rudy has been playing piano, harmonica, mountain dulcimer, and djembe for five decades. Rudy lives in Maine, where he’s been “zoom” meeting regularly with his two bands, producing new music in quarantine, and finding safe ways to perform and share his songs. A keyboard and dulcimer are always close by for jams with his kids and grandkids. During the day he is Chief Procurement Officer for the Maine University System.
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.
Ryan Husain started out as a guitarist – in fact, with a degree in jazz guitar with emphasis on performance, as well as private studies with master jazz musicians. But after he had to give up the guitar, he discovered the dulcimer, and has been applying all of his knowledge to play jazz on the dulcimer – mostly the 3- and 6-string chromatic varieties. He’s digging deeper into jazz on the dulcimer than just about anybody has done. Based in Las Vegas, he “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore,” but he’s got rhythm, and he’s got music. And look for a feature on him in an upcoming issue of Dulcimer Players News. UPDATE: Ryan will be unable to teach at Nutmeg this year. His classes will be taught by Stephen Seifert.
Workshops (MD) - Update: Ryan's classes will be taught by Stephen Seifert.
Tom Irving has been a “Folkaholic” since a young boy, and music has always been a huge part of his life. After years of playing guitar, mandolin, and uke, he discovered his passion for the dulcimer. In 2018, he formed New England Dulcimaniacs, a mountain dulcimer club in Raynham, Massachusetts. Tom is a member of the Nutmeg Team, and is also the creator of Possum Pads, Uke Pads, and the new Dulci-Wrest.
Mack Johnston has 20+ years experience playing in mandolin ensembles and orchestras. He was Music Director for the Northeast Dulcimer Orchestra 2013 – 2016, and since his move to Asheville, NC, now directs the Asheville Dulcimer Orchestra.
Mack is a graduate of the Dulcimer University/Western Carolina University certification program for teaching the Mountain Dulcimer. He teaches private students, classes and festival workshops in the New England and North Carolina regions.
Mack and his wife Melanie perform in the Asheville area as a duo with dulcimer, guitar and mandolin. They have written a book titled, Dulcimer Jam Training Wheels, with quarter-note versions of many popular jam tunes, available through Folkcraft Instruments.
Workshops (MD, except as noted))
Melanie Johnston has been playing Mountain Dulcimer since 2001. While living in Connecticut, she and her husband Mack co-founded the Northeast Dulcimer Orchestra and the Connecticut Mountain Dulcimer Gathering. Since moving to Asheville, NC, in 2017, they've founded the Black Bear Dulcimer Gathering and the Asheville Dulcimer Orchestra.
Melanie is a graduate of the Dulcimer University/Western Carolina University certification program for teaching the Mountain Dulcimer. She teaches private students, classes and festival workshops in the New England and North Carolina regions.
Melanie and her husband, Mack, perform as a duo with dulcimer, guitar and mandolin. She is the author of TablEdit for Mountain Dulcimer Arrangers, available through Folkcraft Instruments.
James Jones has been building handcrafted musical instruments since 1978. In rural Bedford, Virginia, working alone in a wood shop he designed and built, he has developed designs for ten different acoustic instruments. He’s best known for making hammered dulcimers, but also has made various members of the family, such as linear chromatic dulcimers and santoors, and he has built a number of electric dulcimers. In addition, he makes mountain dulcimers, guitars, bowed psalteries, folk harps, octave mandolins, monochords, thumb pianos, tongue drums, and zithers.
Marya Katz is a retired National Board Certified music teacher who still lives and breathes music in her daily life. She has led dulcimer workshops at many festivals, teaches private students, composes, and performs with the folk group Simple Gifts of the Blue Ridge. She recently taught a week-long workshop at Perelandra in NC; she will be teaching there again in June 2019. And somehow, she still finds time to direct the choir at her church and pull weeds from her gardens at home in Blacksburg, VA. She has had her original compositions published in Dulcimer Players News and online for the dulcimersessions.com magazine, and has published several books of traditional arrangements and original compositions. Her newest venture is a book of "practical" theory for hammered dulcimer players, titled "Building a House of Basics."
Bernd Krause been building dulcimers for over 40 years. In the early ‘80s, he went to a guitar building school and use much of that knowledge building dulcimers. Even after all these years building, he says he still gets excited every time he strings up a new dulcimer for the first time and hears it sing. He has made dulcimers for Jean Ritchie, David Schnaufer, Clint Black, and Dolly Parton, as well as four dulcimers that went to orphanages in Kenya and Uganda. He’s based near Binghamton, NY, and also builds ukuleles, mandolins, guitars, and other instruments.
Randy Marchany was a centerpiece of the hammer dulcimer band, No Strings Attached, for its entire four decades of existence, until the band retired in 2018. He's featured on all of No Strings Attached's 8 albums - with timeless titles like "Isles of Langerhans" and "Traditional Music of the Future." He wrote the original theme song for the NPR program "World Cafe." Randy has taught hammer dulcimer workshops at the Nutmeg Dulcimer Festival, Walnut Valley Festival, Augusta Heritage Workshops, Swannanoa Gatherings, Upper Potomac Festival, and a zillion others.
Workshops (HD, except as noted)
Jody Marshall, a native of the Washington, D.C. area, grew up in a musical family. Enchanted by the sound and visual appeal of the hammered dulcimer, she developed a passion for the instrument. She has been performing and teaching dulcimer since 1988, was a founding member of the popular folk trios, Ironweed and MoonFire, and performed extensively with Connemara. She also has released four albums.
The Washington Post has described her music as "deftly balancing the artful and the playful...lovely, lively, and shimmering." She has been nominated as best folk instrumentalist by the Washington Area Music Association. Jodi has performed at many festivals across the country, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the Maryland Renaissance Festival, the Kennedy Center, the White House, and the 2017 Nutmeg Dulcimer Festival.
Juliana Parker is a graduate of Berklee College of Music, where she studied songwriting and performance under Livingston Taylor, and where her songs earned the Songwriting Foundation Scholarship and the award for Best Performance in Berklee’s Perfect Pitch Songwriting Contest. She’s now pursuing her love of writing for the stage with the BMI Lehman-Engel Musical Theater Workshop. Juliana lives in New York City, where she teaches piano, voice, and songwriting. Catch her now, before she becomes famous.
Ellen S. Pratt has been playing mountain dulcimer for twenty years, and has been writing her own music for most of that time. She has taught at festivals throughout the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states. Ellen’s style of playing is a mix of traditional and contemporary -- the hard, fast strumming of old-time music and jam tunes, but also the quieter, more contemporary, fingerpicked chord melody style. At the elementary school where she teaches second grade, Ellen plays both dulcimer and banjo, and has worked with students and their families to build cardboard dulcimers for the students to play. She co-coordinates Vermont‘s August Dulcimer Daze festival with George and Mary Haggerty.
Randy Raine-Reusch is a multi-instrumentalist, composer, and improvisor. His core instruments are the Appalachian Mountain dulcimer, the Chinese zheng, the Thai khaen, and the Japanese ichigenkin. Taking up the dulcimer in 1970, he became part of the West Coast music scene with Neal Hellman, Robert Force, Al d’Ossche, John Fahey, and Robbie Basho. In the late '80s, he recorded Dulcimer Stomp on Aerosmith’s Grammy award winning album Pump. He has taken the dulcimer around the world to major stages from Germany to Borneo, and Korea to South Africa. In 2019, Raine-Reusch included the dulcimer in an instrumental duel with famed Chinese multi-instrumentalist Fang Jinlong on a popular national Chinese TV show, and in 2020 performed a West Coast raga on dulcimer for an online concert in India.
Brett Ridgeway, whose philosophy is that "anyone can make music, regardless of age, musical ability or knowledge!” He is a full-time musician who teaches hammered dulcimer, mountain dulcimer, bluegrass banjo, clawhammer banjo, beginner acoustic guitar and mandolin. Brett has created a series of instructional CDs for hammered dulcimer, has a lesson series available on YouTube, and also teaches lessons via Skype and FaceTime. He had the largest class at the 2016 Dulcimer Funfest in Evart, MI, and the largest classes at the Ohio Valley Gathering for the last two years. Brett tours promoting traditional American music. He has released a total of eight recordings, of which seven are currently available. Additionally, his original composition, "Gettysburg Rain," is featured in the soundtrack of “The Path of the Wind,” a 2010 movie which features Wilford Brimley.
Bill Ruyle is a hammered dulcimerist-percussionist-composer-collaborator who has been in the NYC new music and dance scene for over 40 years. He was introduced to the hammered dulcimer by his dad, who built one for fun as a woodworking project. Bill has played hammered dulcimer for numerous theater productions, film soundtracks, and recordings, including Last Forever, Frida, Sin Nombre, Big River, The Secret Garden, the Broadway production of "Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark", "Escape from Dannemora" on Showtime, and Tom Lee puppet projects. He is performing live, online, September 11th and 12th, for a virtual production "Vital Signs" created in collaboration with The Seoul Institute of the Arts and Culture Hub at La MaMa Experimental Theater in NYC. Bill is also the music director for The Trojan Women Project at Lamama, and teaches at the Juilliard School and the Music Conservatory of Westchester.
Stephen Seifert is one of the most popular mountain dulcimer players and teachers anywhere, and also one of the most versatile. Over the past three decades, he's been a featured performer at hundreds of dulcimer festivals and other music events all across America, as well as international events like Nonsuch in England, and the Tono American Music Festival, in Tono, Japan. He also organized the world's first chromatic dulcimer festival. In addition, Stephen has been a featured soloist on dulcimer with numerous symphony orchestras.
Stephen was a protege of the late David Schnaufer, taught with him at Vanderbilt's Blair School of Music from 1997 to 2001, and also performed and recorded with him. Stephen has authored ten books, four CDs, and 16 instructional videos. See all his latest instructional materials at mountaindulcimeratoz.com .
(These classes were originally listed for Ryan Husain.)
Carol Walker is a happily retired high school choral teacher (recipient of the NJ Governor's Teacher of the Year Award in 2003), and performs on mountain dulcimer, piano, harp, and upright bass. Her folkloric research single-handedly brought traditional music of the Isle of Man to the mountain dulcimer, leading to a CD of Manx tunes, "Alas, the Horse Is Gone," as well as two books of "Tailless Tunes." Carol's instructional works include the three "DNA* Dulcimer Ditties" book/CD sets, as well as DVD on the Homespun label. Nutmeg will coincide with the release of her newest book, "Church in the Wildwood," a collection of hymns and spirituals for solos and dulcimer ensembles at all levels.
Mountain dulcimer player, fiddler in Cajun, Quebecois, New England, and old-timey styles, multi-instrumentalist, singer, and educator. Pam Weeks, solo or with her bands, is dedicated to sharing the "joie de vivre" of traditional American music and dance! Since moving to Maine in 1985, Pam has been performing with T-Acadie (folk trio), Jimmyjo & the Jumbol’ayuhs (Cajun), and Scrod Pudding (contradance), and giving private and group lessons at home on mountain dulcimer, fiddle, and many other instruments. She is a permanent teaching staff member at Maine Fiddle Camp and and has taught at multiple music camps and festivals around the country. Pam is also an accomplished tunesmith and has composed scores of tunes, from lively jigs and reels to entrancing airs and beautiful waltzes. Many of these are recorded on her four albums, the most recent of which is “By the Sea” with T-Acadie.
Norm Williams has been teaching Mountain Dulcimer since 2002 and has been faculty/performer at many festivals and events since, including Ashokan Music & Dance Camps, MDMF in Albany, French Creek Music Retreat and the Augusta Heritage Festival. Norm is co-founder of The Pocono Dulcimer Club and a coordinator of their Pocono DulcimerFest held every April in the Pocono Mountains of PA. He is also co-chair of the Maidencreek Old Time Music Festival, held in July in Blandon, PA, and a great promoter of the mountain dulcimer. Norm is currently semi-retired and resides with his wife, Erin, in Emmaus, PA.
Instrument Vendors - 2020
Richard Ash - mountain dulcimers & accessories
James Jones - hammered dulcimers & other instruments
Bernd Krause - mountain dulcimers & other instruments
Russell Cook* - hammered dulcimers & other instruments
(* Joshua Messick will represent Master Works at Nutmeg.)