Meet the Instructors

Neal & Coleen Walters

Neal and Coleen Walters Singing and playing since the 1960’s, Neal and Coleen Walters live in Greencastle, PA, but grew up in Southern California.  Their music has been influenced by many different artists and styles of music. Their current repertoire includes songs from the 1700’s through Gordon Lightfoot, Doc Watson, the Carter Family, ’40’s standards, and even a couple of Beatles songs.  Autoharp, dulcimer and banjo are Neal’s instruments of choice, and Coleen adds bass to the mix.  You’ll hear lots of harmony singing as well as some instrumentals. Along with John and Heidi Cerrigione, Neal and Coleen perform as Doofus, and over the last ten years the group has recorded four albums. Neal was a member of the Mill Run Dulcimer Band for over 20 years and recorded nine albums with them. He also edited Music Hound Folk: the Essential Album Guide to Folk Music (Visible Ink Press). In addition to their concert appearances, Neal has taught dulcimer, autoharp, banjo and guitar for nearly thirty years in and around Washington, DC, and at camps and festivals. When not traveling and making music, Neal and Coleen run Basement Studios, providing high quality studio recording and engineering in a rural and relaxed environment with beds and meals included as part of the package. The Walters’s other services include graphic design, webpage design, acoustic music for all occasions, CD transfers from your old LPs or cassettes, and private and group lessons for dulcimer, autoharp, guitar, banjo and bass.

Jimmy Costa

2006 Vandalia Gathering - Jim Costa, Andrew DunlapA popular festival performer and instructor, Jimmy Costa has had an interesting life collecting and singing songs from the mountains of West Virginia and Virginia. He has visited and learned music from many folks, including the older mountain dulcimer players for whom the instrument was a part of life before the folk revival of the ‘60’s. Along with his knowledge of and skills on the dulcimer, Jimmy is known as a grand performer of old Dave Macon songs. Not surprisingly, like Ralph Lee Smith, Jimmy has a collection of rare old mountain dulcimers, some of which were borrowed by Ferrum College’s Blue Ridge Institute and Museum for The Virginia Dulcimer exhibition (now on display in the History Museum of Western Virginia). Click HERE to enjoy Jimmy on YouTube performing “Hold the Woodpile Down” at the WNRV Jamboree, Feb. 23, 2012.

Wayne Seymour

Wayne SeymourWayne Seymour has been involved with folk and traditional music for over 50 years.  He plays many other instruments in addition to dulcimer and has won numerous competitions in dulcimer, guitar, and folk singing throughout the Southeast, including first place at the Galax Old Fiddler’s Convention. Wayne began playing dulcimer in 1979 and has been working as a professional dulcimer player and instructor since 1984 . With an informative and entertaining teaching style much in demand, Wayne has taught at festivals and seminars throughout the East and Southeast.  He has been involved in many CD projects including 5 of his own.  Beyond the dulcimer world, Wayne is also a noted composer and arranger of theatre music.

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.

Madeline 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 for 2015 web siteDave Haas lives in Charleston, WV, and has been playing the mountain dulcimer since 1990.  He teaches dulcimer in both private and group settings and was the founding member of the “Almost Heaven Dulcimer Club” in Charleston.  Dave loves to share the mountain dulcimer and its history with schools, churches, and civic organizations, and he has even brought the dulcimer to those in prison!  A well-known instructor and performer at dulcimer festivals, Dave has taught and performed with the dulcimer in sixteen states.  He is known for his gentle, fun, and enthusiastic teaching style.  Dave has released seven dulcimer instructional book/CDs, four instrumental dulcimer CDs, and a popular dulcimer chord chart.   Dave also enjoys teaching science as a Chemistry Professor at the University of Charleston.  One of his favorite teaching activities is to sing chemistry songs (on dulcimer and guitar) with his students.  In addition, Dave plays the guitar, sings, and enjoys leading music on Christian retreat experiences such as Kairos Prison Ministry, The Walk To Emmaus, Cursillo, and Teens Encounter Christ (TEC).

Marsha Harris

Marsha HarrisCRDF co-director Marsha Harris lives in Morehead City, NC. She is a multi-instrumentalist (mountain and bowed dulcimers, BanJammer, fiddle, and Native American style flute) and enjoys many genres of music.   Her CD, A Nice Combination, reflects the character of her music.  She enjoys teaching and performing in NC, GA, VA, VT, LA, AL, KY and FL.  Additionally, she plays at local events, weddings, schools, and theatre productions.  Marsha plays with The Bogue Sounds and Gumbo Lily, two bands located in Carteret County, NC.   She has received awards at various fiddle festivals and the NC State Fair Folk Festival.  In October 2014, Marsha received the Annette Pulley award from the NC Folk Festival.  The award is given to an individual or group for outstanding talent, sportsmanship, audience appeal and continuing support of the Folk Festival.  Marsha is also a member of Painted Raven, a Native American flute and World music trio based in Orlando, FL. They travel to Florida and Ohio for performances.  Additional information can be found at www.marshaharrismusic.com and www.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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