Meet the Instructors

2014      (2015 Info Will Be Coming This Fall)

Mary Greene

Mary Greene 1Mary Greene approaches the mountain dulcimer from the multiple perspectives of a singer, player, teacher, and folklorist. She taught for nearly 20 years at the Appalachian State University Dulcimer Workshop and also at the Swannanoa Gathering and John C. Campbell Folk School.  An experienced dulcimer teacher, Mary brings a wealth of personal experience with traditional musicians and folklife to her workshops.  She grew up on an old-time farm in the Blue Ridge and has been learning traditional music since her childhood from shape-note and ballad singers, dulcimer players, and fiddlers.  Mary produced a documentary recording on North Carolina Heritage Award winner Ora Watson, a ballad singer and fiddler born in 1911, and they performed together in women’s string bands and in the Laurel Creek String Band for over 30 years.  Most recently, Mary produced and directed a documentary film Blue Ridge Shape Notes: Singing a New Song in an Old Way. Nearly two hundred Blue Ridge shape-note singers participated in the production of this film!

Ralph Lee Smith

Ralph Lee SmithVirginia resident Ralph Lee Smith is a leading authority on the history of the dulcimer who plays the dulcimer to accompany old and field-collected mountain songs in simple styles. He is co-author of five books of traditional Appalachian songs arranged for singing with dulcimer, including Songs and Tunes of the Wilderness Road. He is also the author of Appalachian Dulcimer Traditions, a standard history of the instrument. He has received a Lifetime Achievement Award from Western Carolina University for his research into the history of the dulcimer.

Phyllis Gaskins

Phyllis & Jim GaskinsPhyllis Gaskins specializes in the “Galax Noter/Drone Style Dulcimer” she learned to play over 30 years ago from Galax dulcimer player and maker Raymond Melton.  This style goes back in Raymond’s family to the middle of the 1800s.  Born and raised in the foothills of the Virginia Blue Ridge Mountains, Phyllis learned mountain-style singing from her grandmother and mother.  She has won numerous dulcimer competitions and was recognized as a 2010-11 “Master Traditional Artist” by the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities.  Since retiring from 39 years of teaching elementary school,  she has focused on finishing The Galax Dulcimer Book.  Over the past 20 years Phyllis has been assisted in her workshops and performances by her husband, Jim Gaskins, an accomplished fiddler and clawhammer banjo player who specializes in old-time and Celtic music.  Together they showcase the Blue Ridge tradition of playing the dulcimer with other instruments.  Phyllis is a co-Director of the Crooked Road Dulcimer Festival.  Check out www.virginiadulcimer.com for more about Phyllis.

Madelyn MacNeil

Madeline MacNeilA major figure in the dulcimer community since the 1970s, Madeline MacNeil has shared her artistry with audiences and aspiring students at arts centers, universities, and festivals throughout the United States.  Across the Atlantic she has performed at the O’Carolan Festival in Keadue, County Roscommon, Ireland; the Glasgow Festival of the Arts in Scotland; and for the Nonsuch Dulcimer Gathering in East Norton, Leicestershire, England.  For several years Maddie was a touring artist under the sponsorship of the Virginia Commission for the Arts.  She is a best-selling author of mountain and hammered dulcimer books for Mel Bay Publications and has recorded numerous CDs.

Ken Bloom

Now based in North Carolina, Ken Bloom has been a professional musician all his live and has had experience playing in a wide range of circumstances.  Traditional music from this country as well as many other parts of the world has been a keen interest of Ken’s for decades.  He was trained in woodwork by his father from an early age, and Ken now devotes much of his time to building bowed dulcimers as well as several other instruments.  He developed the bowed dulcimers he is now building from the older traditional ones, some dating back centuries.  Performing has also been a very important part of Ken’s musical life, and he has done so in several countries and at many festivals all over North America.

David Haas

Dave Haas lives in Charleston, West Virginia, and has been playing the mountain dulcimer since 1990.  He teaches dulcimer in both private and group settings and was the founding member of Charleston’s “Almost Heaven Dulcimer Club.”  Dave loves to share the mountain dulcimer and its history with audiences in schools, churches, and civic organizations.  He has even brought the dulcimer to those in prison.  Dave has taught and performed with the dulcimer in ten states and is a popular instructor at festivals.  He has released five instructional books/CDs, three instrumental CDs, and a popular chord chart.  Dave performs solo and as a duo with Bob Webb.  As a chemistry professor at the University of Charleston, one of Dave’s favorite teaching activities is to sing chemistry songs—with dulcimer and guitar—with his students.  In addition Dave plays guitar, sings, and enjoys leading music on Christian retreat experiences such as Kairos Prison Ministry, the Walk to Emmaus, Cursillo, and Teens Encounter Christ.

Marsha Harris

Marsha HarrisCRDF co-director Marsha Harris lives in Morehead City, NC.  She enjoys many genres of music and composing, and she plays several instruments:  mountain, bowed and Ban-Jammer dulcimers; Native American style flute; fiddle; and tenor banjo.  Marsha enjoys traveling to various festivals to share musical experiences.  The title of her first CD, A Nice Combination, sets the tone for the types of music she enjoys.  She shares music through teaching and playing for various events such as weddings, concerts, schools, theater productions, and festivals. Marsha has received numerous awards at old-time fiddle festivals and the NC State Fair Folk Festival for her mountain dulcimer/Native American flute playing and singing abilities.  Native American flute has expanded Marsha’s artistic expression and has led to additional music project collaborations.  She joins Annette Abbondanza as a member of Painted Raven, a Native American flute and world music duo.  Painted Raven has released their first collaborative CD Season of Lights.  Learn more at marshaharrismusic.com and painted-raven.com.

Ben Seymour & Becky Cleland

Ben Seymour and Becky Cleland with dulcimersBen Seymour has been building dulcimers since 1994. A friend had him make a dulcimer for her, and after that Ben says he became obsessed with it–”Now I can’t stop!” Wanting to keep the Galax dulcimer from disappearing from dulcimer history, he decided to add it to his line of instruments (which also includes reproductions of the scheitholt, an old German instrument and likely dulcimer ancestor;bouzoukis, psalteries, harps and other custom instruments). He carefully reproduced Galax dulcimer features by studying original instruments and photographs in Ralph Lee Smith’s preeminent history of the dulcimer, Appalachian Dulcimer Traditions.  When shown one of Ben’s Galaxes, Ralph stated that Ben had achieved the “traditional-style instrument of the Virginia type.” Ben teaches the playing of the mountain dulcimer to students from third graders to retirees. He is a member of the Guild of American Luthiers and a graduate of the Chimneys Workshop for Violin Makers, is on the Artists Registry of Handmade in America, and is included in the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area online Artist Directory. For more information visit Ben’s website: http://www.kudzupatch.net/ben.htm

Becky Cleland holds a Master’s degree in Library Science and a Bachelor of Science degree in Liberal Arts from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, and she has served as a librarian for twenty-two years at Isothermal Community College in Spindale, North Carolina. Becky performs Appalachian and Celtic folk music with Ben, her husband, in a duo known as Gingerthistle.  Her artistic talents extend to pottery, which she makes under the label Greenthorn Pottery, as well as jewelry making for herself and friends. Ben and Becky live in western North Carolina with two cats and lots of nature.

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