Strum it, pluck it and jam out at the New Mexico Dulcimer Festival.
The festival, which is celebrating its 10th year, brings musicians from around the country to conduct workshops and performances on mountain dulcimer, hammered dulcimer, bowed psaltery, Celtic harp, bodhrán (Irish frame drum), ukulele, mandolin, fiddle and more. The workshops will be held at various times from morning to late afternoon Friday, Oct. 18, and Saturday, Oct. 19. Evening concerts will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. each day of the event. This year’s headliners are Dave Haas, who will hold mountain dulcimer workshops; Kevin Kolodner, who will host hammered dulcimer workshops. along with his son, Brad; Ilace Mears, who will give hammered dulcimer workshops; and Mark Nelson, who will hold mountain dulcimer and ukulele workshops. There will be a concert by Corrales’ The Secret Life of Drones.
“Our headliners, we have different ones every year,” said Irma Reeder, director of the New Mexico Dulcimer Festival. “They come from all over the country. They come in, and we have these wonderful concerts in the evenings for the public. And I don’t know how many times people come up to me at the concerts and say, ‘I had no idea that these instruments were so interesting.’ ”
Reeder said there are misconceptions about several of the instruments involved in the festival, particularly the mountain dulcimer.
“Many people in our area still feel that especially the mountain dulcimers aren’t really a real instrument,” Reeder said. “It’s kind of this antique oddity that comes from the Appalachian area of the country, and you play it very traditionally, and you can only play in one key, and you can only play one kind of music. And that’s one of the reasons that we started the festival. We wanted people to see the versatility of the mountain dulcimer and the beauty of the hammered dulcimer.”
The instruments are reliant on the person playing them, and instructors will demonstrate there is more to the dulcimer than just strumming it.
“We enjoy showing people that although the mountain dulcimer only has three or four strings and many people feel that you can only strum it but there are people out there that are playing blues and jazz and classical and ’40s and ragtime and all kinds of different musical genres on these instruments,” Reeder said.
Attendees who have never picked up a dulcimer can participate in beginner workshops at the festival.
“We provide the instruments,” Reeder said. “All they have to do is walk into the workshop, and they are handed an instrument and they are taught how to play these instruments so that, theoretically, by the end of those two days you are able to play music on these instruments. You can leave having a new skill and a new love of your life.”
Eventgoers are also encouraged to bring their own instruments to compare and discuss with others.