Why the hammered dulcimer? Well, It started with banging on the table during family dinners followed by my request to play the drum set. My parents were not to keen on having my kitchen table-tapping magnified by the drums, so instead convinced me to try the hammered dulcimer. They had one in the house because my mom was interested in learning it, but its main purpose was catching dust. I didn’t need much convincing to try it. I was ten years old, and pretty easygoing. They found me a teacher, and I quickly realized I loved it.
I’ll never forget my first performance. I was probably 11, and entered in a 4H talent contest. My tune was a traditional folk piece called “Liberty.” I was scared out of my mind! I recall my dulcimer on the stage looking… different. The real surprising thing was how much my hands shook side to side! I may have gotten two notes right the whole piece.
However, my fear of playing in front of people didn’t last too long. Mark Wade started teaching me shortly after, and was most encouraging. He demystified performing for me, and explained that the more I do it, the more comfortable I’ll be with it… just like anything else. I competed and won the Oklahoma State competition when I was twelve, and got my first shot at the National competition held in Winfield Kansas. I made it in the top five that year. In the years too follow, I won 3rd, and finally 1st in 2004 at the age of fourteen, setting the record for the youngest ever to win that competition.
I began to self-study when I was fourteen because Mark had moved away. I was also studying piano and percussion at the time in order to learn music theory. Every instrument I’ve picked up has had a strong influence on my dulcimer music. That being said, the dulcimer was my first instrument, and retains much of my first approach to music.
I am currently in Nashville, TN jamming with folks, and learning all I can. I have many ideas for albums, and compose pieces on a regular basis. I also pick up new instruments and stay pretty consistent with them. I’ve come to the conclusion that as a musician, my main goal is to study music, and not necessarily a single instrument.