A Face In The Crowd 

There are surely many guitarists who attribute initial interest in their instrument to the Rolling Stones, but for David Schnaufer, the Stones’ “Lady Jane” led to a lifelong dedication to the dulcimer, traditionally associated with Appalachian folk music. “I bought myself a dulcimer on my 21st birthday,” Schnaufer says. “One reason it appeals to me is that it can be strummed, flatpicked, fingerpicked, bowed or played with a slide, offering a lot of sonic possibilities.” In the 29 years since, the instrument has been his single all-consuming passion. Schnaufer grew up in a small South Texas town, LaMarque, and in his teens was a surfer on Galveston Bay. After his musical awakening, he moved to West Virginia, where he heard Ricky Skaggs and the Judds getting airplay. In 1984, he decided that Nashville was the place to pursue his musical career. Before long, he was performing and recording with the likes of The Judds, Emmylou Harris, Chet Atkins and Johnny Cash. But Schnaufer has also introduced the instrument to unlikely musical genres, working with the likes of Nigel Pulsford from the rock band Bush. In fact, he has taught students as far-ranging as Cyndi Lauper and Bare Jr.’s Tracy Hackney. Schnaufer is currently a professor of dulcimer—to the best of his knowledge, the only such professor in the world—at Vanderbilt’s respected Blair School of Music. “Part of the appeal of the dulcimer,” Schnaufer says, “is that, unlike many other instruments, you can be making music in a fairly short amount of time.” For anyone interested in the dulcimer, or just a great time, Schnaufer highly recommends the May 18 Grand Old Dulcimer Day at Two Rivers Mansion. For more information, visit www.grandolddulcimerclub.org.

—By Jack Silverman

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