The dulcimer is meaningful in many ways. It allows me to explore and play all kinds of music. It’s a passport to gatherings of wonderful people I otherwise would never meet. It pushes me to understand more about music theory so I can arrange my favorite tunes.
So this month when I finished teaching an 8-week course for new players at American University’s Lifelong Learning Institute, I was interested to hear what the dulcimer meant to my students. One was thrilled to find the class; dulcimer playing had been on her “bucket list.” Another was exploring her Kentucky heritage and picked up the instrument as a way to reconnect with her Appalachian roots.
Perhaps the dulcimer’s significance was most profound for one gentleman who throughout his life–even with a love of music–never had much success playing an instrument. The dulcimer began to change all that as he persevered to master fingerings and strums. It was delightful to see him buoyed by the encouragement received from classmates; he remains excited about continuing to play on his own.
I marvel at the unique way in which the dulcimer touches each of us. It’s a special joy to see my enthusiasm for the instrument take hold in others.