Updated: Dec 19, 2022
So, I'm very behind on the blog because I've been time traveling myself, still transcribing Schnaufer classes from a five day workshop he conducted in the summer of 1991. It's long, tedious work, but worth every moment. As I mentioned in the previous post, it's astonishing to contemplate the multiple tools David used to create a rich learning opportunity for his students. He lectures about the instrument, about the history, he uses storytelling about himself and others; he demonstrates, playing he provides constant opportunities for students to play, most of the time with him supporting their playing, and occasionally with them "flying" solo. He jokes with them, he encourages often, and his passion for the instrument and music is palpable in these 31 year old tapes. No wonder, I hear myself saying to myself many a time ... no wonder he was perceived as so special. How could you not want to try the things he loved?
I'm like an addict with this tapes. I have to force myself to quit occasionally; there are animals to feed, meals to cook, a husband to pay attention to, a dulcimer to take breaks with, and major work on our house that needs attention. But, these tapes are mean to be shared. So, here's the first of the treasures to share with you. Almost five minutes of David teaching his students how to strum Galax-style on the dulcimer. Just prior to this clip he taught them the right way to strip the vane (feathers) off the shaft of a turkey or goose quill (the shaft.)
If you don't know what "Galax-style" playing implies, it consists of a player making music on a uniquely shaped dulcimer that originated in and around Galax, Virginia. David recalled his first glimpse of one as looking like a giant pumpkin seed. Galax dulcimers typically sport four equidistant strings, all tuned to D, and are fretted with a stick called a "noter" and strummed with a quill. They have a unique style of playing along with their own sound; unlike many vintage dulcimer players who used the dulcimer as a rhythm instrument to accompany themselves singing, the Galax was designed to provide dance music along with other stringed instruments like fiddles and guitars. Click HERE to listen to this excerpt from David's 1991 lesson, and listen for his final demonstration as he plays "Ebeneezer", just as he learned from Bonnie Russell herself.
If you'd like to see a Galax dulcimer played for a dance demonstration, watch the video below: