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Some Very Special Instruments at a Very Special Party (Part 2)

Updated: Jun 6, 2022

So, if you've read the previous post, you know that a few rare, vintage instruments from the David Schnaufer Collection were unveiled and displayed for a recent party to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of The Blair School of Music at Vanderbilt University.

I was eager to see all of the those chosen for the display table, but, one in particular was like a magnet for me. You see, I didn't know David made dulcimers until I started researching for Pluck. The first dulcimer I learned about was one that David made for his young buddy Rick Freimuth back in the seventies. David was working with Bonnie Carol in Colorado when he made Rick's dulcimer, and it is a beauty: Quilted maple, and he numbered it "10".

#10 Rick Freimuth Dulcimer made by David Schnaufer. Courtesy of Rick Freimuth.

For almost three years, I wondered about numbers 1-9 (and perhaps some after "10"). Where could they be? Who bought them? Or to whom did he gift them? Or, was he dissatisfied with some and tossed them until he made one that pleased him? I have a feeling he was very meticulous about the dulcimers he made based on those with whom he apprenticed to learn luthiery and given his own demanding standards for his playing..

Then, after I finished the writing, I learned through the grapevine about another of David's friends. It was a friendship that began in the seventies with Jack who played guitar when he met David. For many reasons, I think of that new bit of information as a jackpot, pun intended. Although my writing was done, I was able to have a long and wonderful conversation with Jack by phone.

It turns out that David made Jack a dulcimer. And Jack recently donated it to The Blair School of Music. And I got to play it while at the 75th Anniversary party a few weeks ago. Needless to say, it looks and sounds beautiful. Click on each photo in the grid to see Jack's dulcimer--and, get this--it's number 160. Now, that doesn't mean David made one hundred and sixty dulcimers. It's hard to see the label in the closeup in the bottom middle photo, but I could see the number, his signature, and right above it, Tres Ríos right above the number and the date. Meaning, it was #160 of the Tres Ríos Colorado shop in which Bonnie and David made dulcimers together for a time, and which also was the name of Bonnie, Diane and David's trio in the seventies. So, I haven't asked Bonnie yet, but I am guessing that she made some of those one hundred and sixty dulcimers as well. If I'm wrong, I'll correct this after I talk with her. But David made this dulcimer for his buddy Jack. What a treasure.

On a side note, Zada pointed out that it looked to her as if David made his own loops for the strings, and we both think it's curious that there is a piece of leather underneath the strings right before they wrap over the tail (distal) end of the fretboard. It's time to give a call and ask Jack about that curious bit.

It's not a stretch to think that David made more than two dulcimers given the luthiers he spent time during his Odyssey period. I wonder where they are now?

Finally, I was so gobsmacked by the ability to hold, play and listen to this rare dulcimer when Zada played it that it was almost too late to tape her. I grabbed about five seconds of it; it's not much, I know, but you can still hear a bit of its voice.

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