As stringed instruments go, the Appalachian mountain dulcimer is a recent development. The curvy, wooden instruments designed to rest on the player’s lap emerged in 19th-century Appalachia, borrowing characteristics from older European instruments. The dulcimer’s visual and tonal beauty, ease of tuning, portability and durability made it a popular vehicle for musical expression throughout the region. Kentucky has been a dulcimer hub thanks largely to the late-1800s dulcimer patriarch Uncle Ed Thomas of Knott County, and the 20th century’s innovative and influential Homer Ledford of Winchester. Today, enthusiastic communities of dulcimer players and listeners exist all around the world.
Master luthier Doug Naselroad just completed a Kentucky Arts Council Folk and Traditional Arts Apprenticeship, teaching apprentice Mike Slone the techniques and culture behind dulcimer building.
Sit back a few minutes with this video and hear their story about discovering their personal connections to dulcimer history, and how their work together over the last year is having a big impact on Kentucky communities.
Mark Brown, folk and traditional arts program director