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Folkcraft Player - Jessie Oldham

Jessie Oldham pic

 My first dulcimer was purchased from CapriTaurus in California. A bottom of the line, entry level, FolkRoots California large body. I'd heard Joni Mitchell's dulcimer on Blue and was intrigued. My mom pointed out that the dulcimer is mentioned in the book Christy, one we both enjoyed. I went to our local music shop in upstate NJ and the owner couldn't believe my request. That week he'd

received a catalog from CapriTaurus. He'd never heard of a dulcimer. It was 1973. I cashed in my bond gifted when I was born, took my meager savings, and placed the order. Then I had a blow up with my dad, who didn't support the purchase, but the dust settled when it arrived. My dad heard me playing and knew it was a match.

My plan within a year was to save to get a custom CapriTaurus dulcimer. Oh the headstock, sound hole, and wood choices! I worked as a music counselor at a camp for autistic kids two summers later planning to use all the money to get one. By the end of summer, however, I only had enough money saved to buy a hard shell case. That purchase was a good one. My dulcimer traveled from NJ to California to Florida, back to NJ, PA, and back to NJ over the course of all these years. Unfortunately it became unplayable this year and isn't worth the money to affect repairs. It took until about ten years ago to finally treat myself to a better California walnut body dulcimer from Folkcraft. It was and is amazing. The overtones carry on seemingly forever. I've had to adjust to one extra fret, but I'm glad I decided to make the change.

Jessie Oldham pic2
I played the dulcimer completely in isolation from other dulcimer players. I read the instructions in the basic book and added a couple of songbooks CapriTaurus added. I'm still a simple chord or just pressing the melody strings type person. It is the beauty of the dulcimer-nothing is wrong really. You are free to create, play, and explore the instrument however you wish. Especially if you don't play with others. In the early days, I played with feathers, felt picks, cardboard, constantly looking for changes in tone. I broke so many strings creating tunings! It led me to learn about Appalachian folk music and give demonstrations as a teen explaining the histories of the songs from Lomax's research. What joy it was and continues to be!

Now I watch the videos and see where I was totally left in the dust probably right from the beginning when I see your techniques. It's inspiring and a bit jealousy-invoking.

Thank you for keeping FolkRoots alive. I found a chunk of my musical self that was missing when I found the dulcimer.