Off They Go — to Cullowhee

Helen Bankston and Peggy Broussard will be traveling soon to the beautiful mountains of western North Carolina for the 16th Annual Dulcimer U Summer Week. Lucky Ladies.Helen and Peggy with Dulcimers - IMG_3343_1

Helen and Peggy are elective class instructors at the week-long dulcimer event planned for July 19-24, 2015, at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, North Carolina. They came over this afternoon to show me some of their music. My son made videos of their songs — Let’s see if I can upload them to U-Tube. Plus, I Helen played her bowed dulcimer on some of the songs. It was a fun afternoon!

16th Annual Dulcimer U Summer Week, July 19-24, Cullowhee, North Carolina

If you are a dulcimer player who is looking for an educational and inspiring week, I suggest going to Cullowhee. I learned to play the dulcimer many years ago at the predecessor to this workshop — Appalachian State Dulcimer Week at Boone, North Carolina. I was amazed at all the ways a person could play the dulcimer and my skills and playing ability improved greatly after this week.

The week at Cullowhee features skills classes in the morning, a variety of elective classes in the afternoons plus concerts and jamming at night. It is hosted by Larry and Elaine Congers whose home is in Paris, Tennessee. Both Larry and Elaine are accomplished dulcimer players. I especially enjoy the Larry’s fingerpicking style of playing.

Helen and Peggy - Courting Dulcimer - 1 - IMG_3367_1

The instructors include two of our Lagniappe Dulcimer Society members, Helen Bankston and Peggy Broussard. They are teaching elective classes in the afternoon and giving mini-concerts at night. Both love arranging music for the dulcimer and they’ve developed some creative playing.

Helen Bankston

Helen is as much a dulcimer enthusiast as you’ll ever find. She’s attended dulcimer weekends, workshops and festivals across the country for many years now. Helen is very active in our club and dulcimer fete and is really the reason we have a club here in Baton Rouge. After taking my LSU Leisure Class program, Helen wanted to continue to play with others in the area. With the time and energy, she got the club started along with about dozen other members back in 1998.

Helen - 3 - IMG_3381_1

Most folks can easily tell you where they first heard of the dulcimer. Helen’s story begins with a vacation in Asheville, Tennessee. She heard music coming from a store and followed the sound. She was able to negotiate for the purchase of the smallest dulcimer in the store with her husband–which someone later told her was a “tourist dulcimer.”  That’s what she learned on. Here is Helen at our 2013 fete along with Lagniappe club member, John Hamberlin. SAMSUNG

Later Helen purchased a Kurt Zimmerman dulcimer which is a very large dulcimer with volumes of sound. Her current dulcimer is a beautiful Koa wood dulcimer made by Bob McGowan, shown in the 2nd photo up.

Peggy Broussard

Peggy is also a long time active Lagniappe Dulcimer Society member and past president. Peggy’s story is interesting, too. She purchased a dulcimer on a vacation and stuck it in a closet forgetting about it. Then, on a camping trip Peggy heard dulcimer music coming from a near-by camp site. Following the music, she met Paul Andry of Covington, Louisiana. He had an extra dulcimer along and taught Peggy some songs. “Why don’t you join the Baton Rouge group?” Paul asked. And Peggy did just that.
Peggy - IMG_3380_1

Here is Peggy with one of her favorite dulcimers — made of Tarara wood from South America. Peggy already played the guitar, so learning a second instrument–the dulcimer was easy.

Peggy’s favorite activity at our annual dulcimer fete is introducing the out-of-state guests to a Louisiana crawfish boil. Her son does the cooking. Here Peggy, husband–Bruce–and friend demonstrate how to eat a crawfish.


 Classes at Cullowlee

Helen posted the classes and descriptions of what they will be teaching at Cullowlee on our club E-mail list. I was impressed. Many times the classes offered teach just the basics of dulcimer playing. These classes offer creative and interesting ways to adapt these techniques to brighten up the music. They caught my attention! I’d like to come. Here are the classes and descriptions.

  • Soothing Hymns of Old, Using Multiple Instruments  (All Levels)

Come and learn new ways to use other instruments such as the bowed
dulcimer, bowed psaltery, Native American Flute or guitar with your bass
and standard dulcimers to create fresh ensembles of some of our favorite
old hymns.  Bring any instrument you want, and find out how to add
something new to your arrangements.

  • Chord Dancing  (Beginner to Novice)

Let’s explore another way to learn and use chords. We will learn
more about how to arrange our basic standard D, G, and A chords in a
tune,  for ease of fingering, up and down the fret board.  We will see
how to add variety and harmony to our arrangements.

  • Unconventional Ways to Bring a Smile to Your Performances  (All

Come and have some fun as we explore ways to liven up your
performances,  to add some audience participation,  or a little tweak to
some old-time tunes.  Think like a kid and join us as we bring out the
kazoos, sticks, pizza boxes, spoons and whatever else comes to mind to
add a little zip to your music.

  • Playing From a Hymnal (Advanced)

Ever wonder how one could play some of those other melodies from a
hymnal without having to transpose them to our regular D, G, or A keys?
Flats!?  Come and see!! You need to be ready to retune (bring that tuner
and know how to use it), and/or bring more than one standard dulcimer in
1, 5, 8 tuning.  Standards, baritones, basses and gingers are welcome.

Helen’s Courting Dulcimer

Helen brought along her courting dulcimer to show since my previous blog post included a courting dulcimer. Helen’s dulcimer has standard diatonic tuning on one fret board and a chromatic fret board on the second one. Helen and Peggy played a medley of “Cripple Creek, Liza Jane and Skip to My Lou.” Sounded good. My son recorded their songs for our enjoyment. Here’s the You-Tube link. Click on the link to watch the video.

Helen and Peggy - Courting Dulcimer - 2 - IMG_3371_1

These two ladies are taking an assortment of musical instruments along on their trip. If you go to Cullowlee, hope you’ll look up their classes.

Helen and Peggy - Backyard - 2 - IMG_3399_1

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