When I first began playing mountain dulcimer in 1985, there were three cassette tapes that accompanied me on the journey for the first 20 or so years. David Schnaufer's "Dulcimer Player", Michael Rugg's "Celtic Collection" and Neal Hellman's "Dulcimer Airs, Ballads and Bears." In the 80's, I had no idea about the west coast dulcimer scene, and had I known - might've headed out to see some of these guys play, maybe get some helpful hints on how to do wonderful things with the instrument. But alas, being the shiftless, feckless lad that I was - the path instead taken was one of solitary scratchings and wackings with the occasional light bulb moment that led to some kind of song or technique. In a way now, I'm glad for those days in the virtual musical wilderness; it helped me develop my own style. But still - what a joy it would've been to peek in on the Pacific Rim scene.
In any case - many years later, I'd finally cruise into the dulcimer world and it's been a huge game of catch-up ever since. I did meet the wonderful Robert Force, who literally wrote the book on playing "wild dulcimer" with his late friend Albert d'Ossche. What I didn't realize until I went back and looked at my three dulcimer cassettes, was that Robert had produced both Michael Rugg's and Neal Hellman's records. Sadly, I'd never get to meet David, as he passed away. But here I was, friends with Robert, knowing that Neal was still doing his thing and that Michael was probably out there somewhere, so I dropped Neal an e-mail to let him know of his influence upon my music.
Imagine my surprise when I got a response and a tip on a festival called Redwood Dulcimer Day. Neal sent me co-founder Janet Herman's e-mail and, before I knew it, I was being invited to perform and teach at this year's fest alongside featured artist Lance Frodsham, another guy who has had a big influence on my music. Holy Cow! Does it get any better than that? I'm afraid it does.
While at KMW, Robert had mentioned that Michael Rugg lived in Felton, which Neal confirmed. Michael now runs the Bigfoot Discovery Project on the site of his old dulcimer building enterprise, Capritaurus. Would I get the chance to meet two of the most influential musicians in my life? I guess the picture speaks volumes to that.
All I can say at this point is, the Great Spirit is amazing - and I'm having a blast even though the festival hasn't even started yet!