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Dulcimers - A Little Less Rare Than Unicorns & Mermaids?

May 17, 2024
Good Morning, Y'all!
I'll start out with a few of the responses to last week's "How big is the dulcimer community?" question:
1) The dulcimer community is enormous! Because of the dulcimer I have friends from Florida to California.
2) I'm the only one (I know of) in my ZIP code (this was a common response!).
3) I perform on a regular basis, at open mics, in Long Beach and Orange County, with my Folkcraft dulcimer - which I've had for almost two years. I am the only player around that I know of - except for my teacher, and one other lady who I see at SCDH [Southern California Dulcimer Heritage] and at jams a couple times a year. So, we are rare. A little less rare than unicorns or mermaids, I suppose.  
4) Taos, New Mexico, community. We have been as an observer to a weekly open bluegrass jam. They have a fiddle, banjo, guitars, multiple mandolins, a couple dobros, but not a single dulcimer. We also have gone to a local shindig restaurant with live folk, C&W, and bluegrass music for four years, or more, every Saturday night. It is a summer transient place that pulls in people from Colorado, Texas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico, of course. There is only one dulcimer player ever. She is from Colorado and has come down to Tres Piedras, NM, each year.
5)  I live in a small rural town - Coshocton, Ohio. Our county has about 12-14,000 people. We have a group of six dulcimer players, and a few others, that join in once in a while. (Another common response - naming a moderately small city, and having a handful of active known players. But this city, Coshocton, was home to a big dulcimer festival for many years, and may have higher dulcimer participation than many comparable locations.)
and our most erudite response to the "how many" question:
6) If you recall the story of Odysseus: when he finally returned from the Trojan War, he wanted to go as far from the sea as possible, so he placed an oar on his shoulder and walked inland till someone asked him what that thing was that he was carrying. I am often asked that when I am toting my dulcimer. That aside, in response to your question, I'd ask you to look at the night sky and view the visible stars as dulcimer players. But then there are the myriad stars you can't see.  So, finally, I ask you - how can you ever hope to count what you can't see? 
So that's all the responses I'm going to include - thanks to all of you that shared your thoughts.
I talked about the answer to this question with Dan Landrum, years ago. He and I made some guesses, based on Folkcraft's customer base and on the circulation of the Dulcimer Players News (Dan was the publisher in those days - Fiona Potts is the publisher now). Dan and I used the numbers we had available to us to try and come up with a (likely inaccurate) guesstimate for the size of the dulcimer crowd.

My conclusion? I'll say that the actual numbers don't really matter that much. Those of us that play/teach/perform will continue to do just that. And as people are exposed to the utter coolness/awesomeness/supercalifragilisticexpialidociousness of our instrument, they'll fall in love with the sound. Just like we did.

In the shop this week? Pam's been making DulciVox cases. I walked back to check on her this morning, and she was embroidering pockets:
and a few minutes ago? Pockets were largely made (she was working on DulciVox cases for our endorsing artists. In the photo below, the pockets are sitting, inside out, waiting to be attached to the case bodies:

embroidered pockets for folkcraft endorsing artists' DulciVox cases
Jim (Dad) has been making flat heads for DulciVoxes:

I rearranged the showroom just a bit, and made space for Shelley Stevens' "Baker's Dozen" dulcimer book series (pictured in the photo below). And on that subject, thank you to all of you that helped me reduce my (huge) overstock on her Volume 1: Celtic book. I put that book on sale last Friday (for $3.99, marked down from $12, just to clear our shelves a bit). 

I'll leave the Celtic book on sale until later this afternoon, then it goes back to the regular price.
And as announced last week, Book 2: Fiddle Tunes is on sale now. Same deal. $3.99marked down from $12. Here's your chance to help your wallet (we're selling this book at a huge discount, way below our replacement cost) and to expand your music library. I'll put one book on sale each week for the next few months...

Here's a link to all 13 of the Baker's Dozen books, with the two discounted books at the top of the page:
What have Casey and Cheyenne been up to this week? Cheyenne's finishing off an order for 60 cardboard dulcimers, installing frets and hardware for a school's summer program. Casey has been working on DulciVox instruments (also for our endorsing artist roster). Here's one that's nearly built:

The black bands running the length of the body? Strips of inner tubes (from truck tires!) that are clamping the heel cap in place as the glue sets up. This is the last step for this particular DulciVox before sanding, and this dulcimer will be lacquered by the time you read this newsletter.

So all in all, it has been a good week. Lots of happy players, and all five of us are making progress, getting things done, and working towards our various goals.

Thanks for reading, Y'all - I hope your weekend is amazing. Make some music!
Richard Ash, luthier-with-a-great-job