Author of In Search of the Wild Dulcimer, Wild Dulcimer Songbook, and Pacific Rim Dulcimer Songbook, Robert Force is a well known Dulcimer player and songwriter who is best known for his work with Appalachian dulcimers. As a producer, he worked closely with Kicking Mule Records, BAM Records, Aspen Records, and Blaine Street Records between 1981 and 2013 writing many songs and albums. He also worked as a principal and guest recording artist on many other projects and songs.
Force’s personal website is popular for dulcimer players thanks to his passion for sharing his dulcimer songs and music publicly, for free. His book, In Search of the Wild Dulcimer, has over 100,000 copies in print; as such, it has served a pivotal role in the development of modern dulcimer music. The book is now available for free online. As well as this, his website also offers other song music and guides that help new dulcimer players learn to play the instrument.
Force is a passionate family man and commonly expresses his passion for sharing his music with his fans, too. As such, he still performs at gigs, events, and festivals on a regular basis.
Bing Futch was born in Hollywood in 1966 under the name of Edward Michael Futch. He would go on to live up to that prestigious birthplace as a singer-songwriter and producer. His career began at the age of twenty when he co-founded a Christian techno-punk trio, Crazed Bunnyz. Following this, he would go on to work with the record label Plan 7 Distribution/J.O.B. Entertainment Inc who he still works alongside to this day.
Bing plays the mountain dulcimer primarily and has worked quite extensively in the film and media industries, composing and producing multiple film, television, theatre, and themed attraction soundtracks. He also composed music for the Give Kids the World Village non-profit event in 1994.
His talents with the mountain dulcimer would go on to be noticed best in 1999, when he formed an Americana band called Mohave. A unique aspect of this band was that the mountain dulcimer was at center stage, and as a result, his skill with the instrument would go on to be shared with the world.
As part of the Mohave group, Bing has performed at many big name gigs and events including House of Blues in Walt Disney World, Hard Rock Live at Universal Studios Florida, and has performed as opening acts for bands including Molly Hatchet. His skills with the mountain dulcimer are notable for the fact that he has been one of only two dulcimer players to compete in the International Blues Challenge; during this, he was able to get as far as the semi finals of the 2015 competition. Following this success, Bing Futch would return the next year to surpass the achievement and made it all the way to the finals, winning the “best guitarist” award (despite playing the dulcimer at the time) in the solo-duo category.
Bing Futch is still very active in the dulcimer scene and performs regularly at festivals and shows, as well as releasing new albums and songs. He is also highly active on YouTube, running the Duclimerica channel that helps teach new skills and tricks for Dulcimer players and performs dulcimer songs.
Fondly known as the Mother of Folk music, Jean Ritchie mastered a huge selection of dulcimer songs and music in her career as a dulcimer player, and she would also go on to write many of her own songs as well. During her career she worked with a huge number of record label including Folkways, Argo, Collector, June Appal Recordings, Pacific Cascade Records, and Warner Brothers, just to name a few.
Though she was born in Kentucky, Ritchie was always passionate about traditional folk songs, many of which she was taught by her family. As part of this fascination, she spent a great length of time researching the music both in the United States and in Britain and Ireland, passionately searching for their roots and history. During this time, she would make great contributions to the preservation of traditional music for generations of passionate dulcimer players to come.
The Appalachian dulcimer was the traditional instrument of the community in which Ritchie was born, and as a result of this, it’s unsurprising that she had such a strong love for the instrument. Her love for dulcimers actually began at a very early age; her father had played the dulcimer but didn’t allow his children to play it or even touch it. However, a young Ritchie would rebel against this and successfully played “Go Tell Aunt Rhody” on the instrument, inspiring her love for the dulcimer. In 1992, many years after her first discovery of the instrument, she would then go on to release an album called The Most Dulcimer, which in keeping with its name was an album dedicated to the music of her favorite instrument.
In fact, she has been widely noted as contributing greatly to the revival and popularity of the dulcimer instrument thanks to her albums and tutorial books which helped bring the dulcimer back into the mainstream. Ironically, she often performed unaccompanied but during performances when she did have an accompanying instrument, a handmade plucked Appalachian dulcimer was one of her top choices. It was said to be the hallmark of Ritchie’s performing style, and as a result, it rapidly grew in popularity; she and her husband would also go on to make bespoke handmade dulcimers.
Ritchie’s works would go on to inspire many other famous musicians, who would include Bob Dylan (who is widely considered to be one of the greatest songwriters of all time), Shirley Collins (an influential figure in the English Folk Revival of the 1960s and 1970s), Judy Collins (a Grammy award winning American singer and songwriter), and Emmylou Harris (a highly influential singer, songwriter, and musician who has won a total of 14 Grammy awards during her career).
David Schnaufer Dulcimer Player
David Schnaufer was widely credited for his work on promoting the Appalachian dulcimer. Born in Texas, he moved to Tennessee in the 80s and would go on to teach at Vanderbilt University in the Blair School of Music. During this time, he would become the first ever professor of the dulcimer and its history. He taught students about the dulcimer and how to play it, and this would go on to greatly inspire the next generation of dulcimer players, keeping the history of this unique instrument alive! One of his most notable students was Cynthia Lauper, who would go on to become the first female artist to have a debut album reach the top-five spot on the Billboard Hot 100 ranking!
Schnaufer soon became one of the world’s most highly recognized dulcimer players, and his career would see him working alongside many top artists and singers with his dulcimer. He published several solo albums with his dulcimer work during his career. The most notable of these would be Appalachian Mandolin and Dulcimer Music, which was published by Soundart Recordings in 2006 and recorded alongside Butch Baldassari.
In addition, he worked alongside many well-known singers and bands providing dulcimer backings. These would include the Judds (one of the most successful country music duos ever with a total of five Grammy awards to their name), Emmylou Harris (a highly successful singer, songwriter, and musician with a staggering total of 14 Grammys), and Chet Atkins (a key contributor to what is now known as the Nashville sound – a unique style of country music that appealed more to adult pop music fans than generic country songs would have).
Stephen Seifert is an internationally known player of the Appalachian dulcimer and travels the world, performing as a concert headliner. Furthermore, he taught at the Vanderbilt’s Blair School of Music between 1997 and 2001, sharing his knowledge of the mountain dulcimer to students alongside David Schnaufer, who was widely credited for contributing to the revival of the dulcimer.
Stephen Seifert performs as a solo player and has worked with Orchastra Nashville since 1996 as well. He has featured alongside Connie Ellisor and David Schnaufer, performing Blackberry Winter for Warner Classical Recording, as well as performing the same piece alongside many different Orcestras including the Tucson Symphony Orchestra, the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra, and the Montpellier Chamber Orchestra. As well as this, as of 2020, he also formed “The Steve Seifert Project”, a virtual music group most notable for all of its members sharing the same name! As part of this group, he performs songs on his dulcimer alongside other Seiferts including an Albuquerque saxophonist and a Los Angeles bassist.
Stephen Seifert has been regarded as “the world’s leading dulcimer soloist” by Brentwood and has supported the revival of this unique instrument by publishing numerous educational videos on how to play the dulcimer. He also hosts annual dulcimer playing workshops to share his knowledge of the instrument.
His website, stephenseifert.com, offers a large amount of information about the mountain dulcimer and provides access to live workshops and beginner lessons for those wanting to learn the dulcimer.
Evan Carawan Dulcimer Player
Evan Carawan is a Tennessee-based hammered dulcimer player and enthusiast. Born to parents who shared a passion for folk music, Candie and Guy Carawan, Evan was brought up in a household that placed a great deal of emphasis on folk songs. His father taught him to play the hammered dulcimer at a young age; Guy Carawan was influential in contributing to the revival of the dulcimer in America, and he would pass this passion for the instrument onto his son as well. After being taught to play the dulcimer himself, Evan would also go on to teach the basics of hammered dulcimer playing to Malcolm Dalglish in 1972 with the song, Drunken Sailor, despite only being young himself at the time.
During his career, Evan Carawan has performed as part of multiple groups with his hammered dulcimer, including the Carawan Family and the Atomic City Rhythm Rascals. He has worked alongside Flying Fish Records, Turquoise Records, Ponder Productions, and Grinning Deer Music, contributing to multiple albums including Homeward Bound in 1993, The View from Home and Five Miles from Town.
Guy Carawan was born in Los Angeles and would start his musical career at the age of 23, going on to continue performing right up until his death at 87 years of age. He is known for playing the hammered dulcimer, as well as playing the banjo and the guitar, and regularly performed alongside his wife Candie Carawan. Their son, Evan Carawan, would occasionally perform the hammered dulcimer alongside the pair as well; Guy would teach his son the instrument when he was still young, and passed on his love for folk music too.
Carawan was the music director and song leader for the Highlander Research and Education center. While here, he would contribute to the American Civil Rights Movement by teaching his students the American protest song “We Shall Overcome”. However, his wife Candie would passionately state that Guy’s bigger contribution to the movement was his dedication to recording the events of the Civil Rights movement in song and music.
Carawan would go on to have a long and prosperous career, recording numerous documentary projects as well as working on multiple albums and personal songs.
Dorothy Carter – Dulcimer Player
Dorothy Carter was well known for her use of many different, “old world” instruments, and as part of this she was also a passionate player of the hammered dulcimer. Her music followed contemporary, folk, traditional, medieval, and experimental themes. She was an important and highly influential figure in the revival of both medieval music and psychedelic folk music, and as such, her contributions with the hammered dulcimer are very notable.
In her early life, she started off by learning the piano, and would go on to travel the world in her studies of music; she would travel to the London Royal Academy initially, and then transferred to the Guildhall School of Music in France to refine her skills.
Her work included being a member of the Central Maine Power Music Company during the early 1970s and would then go on to collaborate with Rutman’s Steel Cello Ensemble. As well as this, she would go on to return to London in the 1990s and founded the all-female revival Group Medieval Babes, and the group’s debut album managed to reach the second position on Classical Music Charts in 97. She also performed in multiple festivals and concerts, including the Vancouver Folk Music Festival in 2000.
Jim Couza was notable for his work with both the hammered and Appalachian dulcimers and worked as an instrumentalist in England and the United States. His first experience with the hammered dulcimer was in the early 1970s, while living in Massachuesetts; up until this time, he had been primarily working with the guitar and banjo at Tryworks Coffeehouse. He would then go on to expand on this knowledge by experimenting with playing the Appalachian dulcimer, too.
Couza worked with multiple record companies and acts including D’Urberville Ramblers, Bjork, and Peter Gabriel. He also worked closely with songwriter Jim Fox during his career. Record companies that he worked alongside included Greenwich Village, Dragon Records, and Folksound Records. He also released a dedicated album for the hammered dulcimer alone, entitled Music for the Hammered Dulcimer; this would also go by the name of The Enchanted Valley, and it was recorded with Eileen Monger and published by Saydisc in 1983.
He primarily performed in the UK after leaving the United States, and he would go on to play his dulcimer – and occasionally the guitar and banjo as a nod to his past – at many nationwide festivals and venues.
Though she originally learned to play music on an oboe, Sue Harries would make the switch to the dulcimer in the 1970s, following which she would go on to become one of the most highly regarded and well known players of the instrument. She changed her choice of instrument after falling pregnant with her first son, at which paint she was unable to play the oboe due to not having the same capacity for breath control.
Harris performed with the Albion Country Band on both the oboe and the dulcimer during their debut album, Battle of the Field, which was released in 1976. After the band’s dispersal, she also went on to work as part of a duet with her husband, John Kirkpatrick. However, she has also performed with many others including English folk rock singers Richard and Linda Thompson.
During her musical career, Harris has achieved a great deal more than just performing with her dulcimer. She worked as a composer for the BBC for many years, and also used her skills with music with multiple theatre shows as well.
Harris attended the World Dulcimer Congress in Malvern, 2015, and would go on to form with Lisa Warburton the English Dulcimer Duo. Together, they have played a large number of different Welsh and English tunes as well as jaunty 18th century melodies, all highlighting the beauty of the dulcimer as an instrument.
Brenda Hunter – Dulcimer Player
Best known for her work as a player of the hammered dulcimer, Brenda Hunter is skilled with many instruments. Her style with the dulcimer is particularly influenced by her skills as a classical pianist, too, and this inspiration has given her music style a recognizable sound.
Hunter attended the National Championship at the 1995 Walnut Valley Festival in Kansas. For her achievements, she was awarded a Masterworks hammered dulcimer, created by Russel Cook, as renowned dulcimer maker. However, she has used many different models of dulcimers during her career as a musician, including a Rick Thum model and a Nick Blanton Compact dulcimer model.
Hunter has contributed greatly to the dulcimer community. She teaches the dulcimer around the United States to students, and still attends many festivals and events to perform as well. She also performs as part of the Celtic trio, Banshee in the Kitchen. Many of her concert clips are available on YouTube for fans to watch and her website provides information on her educational videos, workshops, and CDs.
Born in 1961 in Missouri, Dan Landrum’s career with the hammered dulcimer started with very humble origins as a street music player. However, once he was discovered, he joined the Yanni’s touring orchestra and began performing and touring with them in 2003 and 2004 as part of their Ethnicity world tour. The group would also go on to release a live album in 2006 which he also featured in.
Dan Landrum is particularly notable as a dulcimer player for his role as the owner and editor of Dulcimer Players News. The magazine was previously owned by Madeline MacNeil and has been connected fans of the dulcimer for almost 50 years. The magazine is printed quarterly and includes sheet music, tablature, dulcimer history, and articles by other passionate dulcimer musicians; as such, as the owner and editor, Landrum’s contribution to the dulcimer community is notable.
Landrum’s musical career has resulted in him releasing numerous singles and albums between 2002 and 2006. During this time, he collaborated with other musicians and groups including Hannah Carson, Stephen Humphries, and Hammer On!
Best known for his work on the hammered dulcimer – as well as a selection of other instruments – John McCutcheon has produced a huge number of different singles and albums during his career. Born in Wisconsin, he is arguably one of the highest profile dulcimer players. His career has resulted in a total of six Grammy award nominations and he has produced over 40 albums in the time.
In the early 1980s, McCutcheon became a father for the first time. At this time, he found that many children’s songs were condescending and unmusical; as such, he released his own album of children’s songs in 1983. Following this, though he only intended to release a single children’s album, he went on to release a further six and write three children’s books.
His work is notable for the political themes in his songs targeted toward adult audiences. This theme is particularly notable in one of his most successful singles called “Christmas in the Trenches”; the song told the tale of the 1914 Christmas Truce. His music has largely evolved over the years to take on a more heartland rock influence; however, much of his dulcimer music has remained based on pure folk songs and themes.
As well as being a musician, McCutcheon is also widely regarded as an excellent storyteller, and he even featured multiple times at the National Storytelling Festival; this talent is evident in the songs that he writes, with each song having its own story. His wife, Carmen Deedy, is ironically also a children’s author.
During his career, he has worked with a wide selection of different record labels including Appalsongs, Homespun Tapes, Red House Records, Rounder, and Trapezoid.