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David, the dulcimer, and Victor Wooten's message

Updated: Jan 27, 2022

Okay, so a big part of Pluck is the biography of David and a bit of historical context for both David and the dulcimer for those who are unfamiliar with both of them. My initial desire to write the bio was to discover who David Schnaufer was, what made him tick, and why he loved the dulcimer so much. I tell you: learning about him inspired me all over again to fall in love with the instrument and what it can do. That instrument is here to reveal to me what I am made of. Maybe people who read the book and are unfamiliar with the dulcimer and what it does for them will get inspired to give it a try.

The ukelele is very popular these days, and I don't mean to throw any shade on it because it certainly is a fun instrument to play and to listen to. But a uke will always sound like a uke, right? (Correct me if I'm wrong). If you'll consider trying a mountain dulcimer (AKA an Appalachian dulcimer) you'll have a doorway to an instrument that can sound like many other instruments: a guitar, a mandolin, bagpipes, a banjo ... you can sing to it, dance to it and write songs with it. It's simple to learn to play basic tunes, and you can play on your own or in one of the many dulcimer clubs across the country. My club even has a former member who started a club in Japan. She is Yoshi, and her husband is on of Japan's ambassador.

But I digress. My message for this post is to those people who wish they could play a musical instrument, but who are too afraid to try. In my former life as a language teacher, I met many people who felt that way about learning to speak another language. They were sure they couldn't do it. I was trained in communicative language teaching by one of the best applied linguists in the world, Tracy Terrell, so I knew how to allay those fears when they arose.

Once, I was one of those people who thought I could never play an instrument, so my second language acquisition theory should have helped me get over that notion, but it didn't--at first. Once I started playing the dulcimer, I began to notice parallels between language acquisition and music acquisition (as opposed to conscious learning.) I've thought about this topic a lot over the last eight years, and was pretty sure I was on to something. Then, out of the blue, Victor Wooten's TED talk popped into my mail box a couple of days ago. Have a watch when you get a few minutes. If you have the same fear I used to have about learning to play an instrument, maybe his talk will help you. Then, listen to the amazing repertoire of people like David Schnaufer and the many amazing dulcimer players and teachers who are out there creating new players--amateurs and pros alike--by teaching them the secrets of the dulcimer. And guess what? the dulcimer will teach you a thing or two about yourself in return.

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