Folkcraft Player - Alan Richter
I'm Alan Richter and I'm holding my chromatic mountain dulcimer that Richard Ash recently repaired. I told him I wasn't concerned about aesthetics to get the bridge back to its proper place, but the insertion of three screws and the blending of the surface where they are positioned makes it look like it was part of the instrument's original design.
I started playing mountain dulcimer in the mid '80s after buying a new South Korean-made one for $7 at a flea market. After taking a class or two through the McHenry County College, I seldom picked it up for many years as I continued to play whatever instrument I could get my hands on, but mostly electric guitar.
I eventually started playing it again and added a contact mic before buying an electric dulcimer, but after my friend Bill Hartley died in 2010, I no longer had a place to play loud music and, seeking a new and less noisy musical outlet, I signed up for the Dulcimer Ensemble class at the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago, which Dona Benkert teaches. At the time, I thought that after the eight-week session, the class would be over and I'd need to move on to something else, but it's an on-going ensemble, so I continued to sign up for more sessions.
A few years ago, I switched to Dona's advanced techniques class, where in addition to traditional folk music, we play classical, gospel, waltzes, sea shanties, lullabies, foreign ditties and pop/rock songs, including surf and punk but no black metal--yet. Think Turlough O'Carolan to Ennio Morricone to Puscifer. Over the years, I've had the pleasure of playing shows with Dona and fellow students from the classes at Northeastern Illinois University's WZRD radio station, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, a law firm's posh offices in downtown Chicago for a school's fundraising events, the Wolf Road Natural Prairie Reserve for Save the Prairie Fests, a shopping mall, a fam, retirement communities, the hospice at Rush Hospital and, like nearly all OTSFM students, at the school's Gary and Laura Maurer Concert Hall. As the pandemic gradually becomes endemic, I'm looking forward to once again going to Gebhard Woods in June for the dulcimer and traditional music festival.