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Dulcimer Boom Players: A tip of the hat to Doug Berch

Updated: Dec 9, 2021

Since joining the dulcimer community I’ve heard several people say that mountain dulcimer players are some of the nicest people you’d ever want to meet. That was certainly my experience during the research for Pluck.

I found David Schnaufer's spirit of generosity and giving alive and well with those friends from his life who knew, taught, learned from and played with David during the 1970's Dulcimer Boom. I came to think of the Boom players as the Dulcimer Royals, and I will forever be in their debt for the memories, photos and the rare recordings that they shared so Pluck could be written. Powerhouse players such as Doug Berch, Bonnie Carol, Dan Evans (in England), Ron Ewing, Robert Force, Neal Hellman, Lois Horbostel, Maureen Sellers, Leo Kretzner (first mentioned in the "Red-tailed Hawk"post) opened their store of memories for a complete stranger; for that, I will be forever grateful to each of them. They, too, have their own fascinating stories. With their permission, I will write a bit about what I've learned from each one. I encourage you to visit their websites to find out more about them. I'll begin in alphabetical order, and start with Doug Berch.

When I first heard Doug's name, it was through Dan Evans, a finger-style dulcimer player in the U.K. Dan's playing is always exquisite, whether on guitar or the dulcimer, and, because he makes his living as a full-time musician, his instruments are of the finest quality. Long before I thought about writing Davide's bio, Dan told me the story behind the latest dulcimer he acquired from Doug Berch, a luthier in Michigan, U.S.A.

Fast forward to 2020: As I studied the earliest issues of a magazine called (at the time) The Dulcimer Players News, I started to see the name Doug Berch here and there; eventually, he became a contributing editor to the magazine back in the seventies. Thanks to Dan, I knew Doug's name, so I looked him up and the next thing I knew I was face-timing with him. Doug is one of the kindest, wisest people I've ever had the pleasure to meet. He's cool, too; he's a great storyteller and has a delightful sense of humor. He's the kind of guy you'd love to be your next-door neighbor.

Doug told me he considers himself a "musician who plays the dulcimer" rather than a dulcimer musician. He is a multi-instrumentalist, music theorist and teacher, author and a luthier who makes those exquisite dulcimers Dan had described. Doug knew David; they attended many of the same festivals together in the seventies, and he makes several appearances in Pluck.

To find out more about Doug, visit him here: As elegant as his dulcimers, his website offers something for everyone. Visit his blog to learn more about life and work as a luthier; dulcimer history and music including the time period of the Dulcimer Boom; and Doug's thoughts on teaching and learning to play, and many other topics.

You'll find a wonderful profile of Doug here:

All the melodious and soothing characteristics of the dulcimer are on display in Doug's Flowers of the Forest/Durham Rangers -- take a break and listen.

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