Folkcraft Player - Donna Sisk
I was a piano player, but the rest of my family - - brothers, cousins and uncles - - played bluegrass instruments, and at every family gathering since I can remember there was a music jam. Of course there was no piano where these jams occurred! Finally in 2017 at age 60, I decided I was going to learn a stringed instrument and play along at the next annual family reunion, but I wanted to play something that nobody else played. The word "dulcimer" came to mind, and although I had never seen one in person or in photograph, nor had ever heard what one sounds like, I knew it was a folk instrument; I was just hoping it had strings. Internet searches revealed that there was an annual dulcimer festival occurring in a few weeks' time, just one hour from where my husband and I were then living in the south suburbs of Chicago. We attended Gebhard Woods festival in Morris, IL and I saw, heard and played a mountain dulcimer for the first time.
At the festival I found out there was a dulcimer club just 15 minutes down the road from me, and there I found out there was actually a local teacher just another 15 minutes beyond that! The planets were aligning and pointing me to the path of playing the mountain dulcimer. Before the first club meeting that I attended, I scrambled to purchase an instrument quickly, and bought what might be considered a student or starter instrument, while I waited for a custom instrument by another luthier to be made. My starter instrument wasn't the best quality, but I didn't know that,. After several months of playing that sub-par (but pretty) dulcimer and still waiting for the custom one I had ordered, a club member who was "thinning the herd" of his extensive collection offered to sell me one of his instruments. It was the dulcimer in this picture - - a Folkcraft FolkRoots, dated 8-6-2013 with the name S. J. Ash written in it - - a name I have since come to find out is very special. I was in love with the instrument and couldn't believe the beautiful sound that was coming out of my playing - - all because I was finally playing a quality instrument. It had a longer VSL than my little starter dulcimer, which suited me just fine. Pretty soon I took that dulcimer on a day trip out to the Folkcraft shop for an upgrade - - a pickup - - and met Richard Ash and saw the amazing process of turning wood into dulcimers. I eventually started making the 3-hour one-way trip as often as I could for the Second Saturday Clinics. It was worth the drive, and so much fun to sit down and try out some of the instruments from the famous wall in the shop.
I've since acquired several dulcimers (you know how that goes) including two more Folkcraft instruments. They are superb. But my favorite of all my instruments is still this FolkRoots. We have now moved to Tennessee and I can no longer hop on over to Woodburn, IN anytime I want, but I always look for the Folkcraft display at the festivals where I know they will be, and always appreciate the knowledge that Richard shares when we chat.
And, by the way, I did join in the jam at the next family reunion and had the time of my life!